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Huge demands depleting Vanuatu kava, beef

By Samisoni Pareti in Port Vila, Vanuatu

Huge demands, natural disasters and cultural practices are hampering the exports of two of Vanuatu’s premium commodities: kava and beef.

The island nation’s minister for agriculture, Matai Seremiah Nawalu confirmed this as he hosts the Pacific’s first-ever Week of Agriculture this week.

“In Vanuatu, we are running short of kava,” said Minister Nawalu. “The demand for kava is ever increasing. In the US, there are more than 100 kava bars and already they are raising concerns about the supplies of kava. The El Nino (weather pattern) and Cyclone Pam (in 2015) have not helped kava production either.”

Plans aimed at boosting the production of kava labelled by Minister Nawalu as Vanuatu’s “green gold” are already in motion. His Director General in agriculture, Benjamin Shing said a bill has been sent through to parliament to address quantity as well as quality issues.

This bill DG Shing said would also put a stop to the current illegal practice where Vanuatu kava is exported to Fiji, only for it to be repackaged and re-exported by Fiji as Fijian kava.

On beef, Minister Nawalu said his ministry was continuing the re-stocking plans of the previous government to boost cattle numbers. Vanuatu’s cultural practices where cattles are slaughtered for significant events ranging from birthdays to funerals had hampered restocking plans.

“In Vanuatu, every time there is a death, we slaughter two to three bullocks just for one funeral and when a child is born and if it is a boy and the first time he shaves his beard, one bullock slaughtered, his marriage another three bullocks killed. So one person is entitled to about 10 bullocks already.

“If you look at the population of Vanuatu is 270,000 and you multiply it by 10 and we don’t have that kind of bullocks to meet all our cultural obligations.”.


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