A consultation on the Kava Regional Development Strategy 2024-2028 and presentation of a scoping study on developing a kava-based pharmaceutical/nutraceutical industry in the Pacific was held in Honiara on Wednesday 18th October 2023.
The consultation was facilitated by a team from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and included participation from Senior government officials and private sector representatives. A representative of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community also did a presentation on the Safe Agricultural trade Facilitation through Economic integration in the Pacific’ (SAFE Pacific) project.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) was tasked by the Forum Trade Ministers following their endorsement of a concept note for the development of the Pacific Regional Kava Development Strategy in 2021.
In January 2022, the Forum Kava Working Group was established to oversee and guide the drafting of the Pacific Regional Kava Development Strategy. For Solomon Islands, national consultations were held virtually in May 2022 whereby inputs were put forward for consideration in the strategy.
In delivering the opening remarks at the start of the consultation, Trade Commissioner in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Barrett Salato said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET) as the focal point would like to acknowledge its appreciation to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in responding to Solomon Islands request for in country consultation on the regional kava strategy.
Mr Salato said the Pacific Regional Kava Development Strategy will be a roadmap for the sustainable development of the kava sector, not only at the regional level but also ensuring that this is aligned to National Policies such as the draft National Kava Development Policy and draft National Kava Export Strategy currently being developed by Solomon Islands.
He said the Kava industry is an important area in the Pacific that has made significant progress over the years and given its cultural, economic and trade importance, the Forum Trade Ministers in 2021 endorsed a concept note to develop the Pacific Regional Kava Development Strategy.
For Solomon Islands, Kava was introduced in the late 1960’s and over the years the use and importance of Kava has elevated. An emerging cash crop and in recent years the popularity of kava and kava products in the world market has seen growing interest and with this demand an increase in kava producers and farmers in some provinces in Solomon Islands.
Trade Commissioner Salato acknowledged that Solomon Islands is still yet to be on the same level playing field when compared to the other six commercial producing countries in the region especially Fiji and Vanuatu, when it comes to export of Kava, however acknowledge the huge potential for the country.
In 2021, export of Kava from Solomon Islands to international markets were valued at SBD26 Million whilst in 2022 it was valued at SBD 4.6Million. This mainly comprised of kava powder and dried kava chips. Despite the decline over the one-year period, the value remains significant when translated towards contribution to households and kava value chain.
Mr Salato spoke of Kava as a new commodity that has many challenges that are yet to be addressed at the national level to ensure that Kava in any form exported complies to International Standards.
“Your presence today at this national consultation workshop is vital to ensuring Solomon Islands’ inputs are reflected in the strategy and also identify areas of support and resources which can be mobilized at the regional level to contribute to Solomon Islands trade development and progress in the Kava Industry,” He remarked during the start of the consultation.
The Trade Commissioner therefore acknowledged the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and his team for their leading role in national Kava development.