The Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu is working hard to promote Kava, a plant which is ground into a drink that some say has narcotic potency.
The sedative brew that one gets from the kava plant, a member of the peppers family, is made from the roots of the plant. The drink looks like mud water and has a bitter aftertaste, but because of its relaxing and narcotic properties, it is very popular on the islands. As the plant only grows in these parts, Vanuatu is working hard to make it a lead export product.
There are, however, some blockades along the way.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation in Australia, its biggest possible offset market int eh nearest region, classifies the kava drink as a depressant drug, and in some Australian provinces, it is considered illegal. The same goes for some member states of the European Union, such as Poland.
The majority export of Kava, which earns Vanuatu a fair $7.5 million a year, goes to the US west coast where specialist bars are distributing it. The Pacific communities in Australia and New Zealand are also big customers.
But now, Vanuatu wants to increase sales and spread the name of Kava. It has therefore called upon other Pacific islands to work together and try and increase the quality of the drink.
Mr Vincent Lebot, a scientist for the Vanuatu Ministry of Agriculture talks about what will be done to achieve this: “The Europeans damaged the prestigious reputation of the traditional beverage when they banned products made in Europe with imported non-controlled raw material and when they called their poor products kava.”
“Europeans have misused this word, and they have convinced potential consumers around the world that kava could be hepatotoxic. So the Pacific island countries want to protect the reputation of their traditional beverage and avoid this type of problem in the future.”
According to Mr Tim Tumukon, Vanuatu’s biosecurity director, the demand for kava is outstripping supply and exports are set to double in the next two years.