Kava exporter: it’s time to take advantage of high prices and grow the industry

A Fijian kava exporter is urging Pacific people to focus on commercial operations rather than small subsistence farming following last month’s lifting of a European Union kava export ban.

Lami Kava director Donny Jason Yee, whose family has been farming kava since the 1970s, said now is the time to take advantage of high kava prices and grow the industry, RNZI reports.

Mr Yee said the local market in Fiji was fiercely competitive, worth $US148 million annually, and the biggest challenge export-wise was competing with Vanuatu.

Currently, Fiji farm gate prices range per kilogram between about $US45 – $60 and kava roots retail at $US50- $75.

While it is still early days for him to see any benefits from the EU, he said there’s no doubt the kava export market is growing.

For example he said one of the kava bars in the US he supplies provides a service to Russian clients.

Posted by  | Jan 19, 2018 | Vanuatu News

Vendors happy with kava sale

Serafina Silaitoga, FijiTimes.com

Grog vendors in Labasa have seen growth in their business with good yaqona prices. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA
Grog vendors in Labasa have seen growth in their business with good yaqona prices. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

THIS year posed a promising period for yaqona vendors in the Labasa Market.

Since Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016, vendors in the Labasa Market have seen their revenue increase every week.

And for this festive season, some vendors have collected as much as $6000 in a day.

Vendor Marica Tuwaisele said her grog business had grown.

“The demand is higher even though the price has remained the same since Winston last year,” she said.

“This year we didn’t experience any shortfalls in which our income will be affected as the supply was constant and demand was high. Towards the end of this year, we noticed the demand was higher than what we experienced earlier in the year.”

After Severe TC Winston last year, a severe shortage of yaqona in many parts of Fiji led to skyrocketing prices.

This also contributed significantly to inflation with several other tropical depressions and flooding affecting supply.

While kava prices remain generally about $90 to $120 per kg mark, Mrs Tuwaisele said the high income helped them prepare their children for school.

“It’s a big help for families who depend on grog for income and have no other source of income,” she said.

Saimone Sarosaro, another vendor described Severe TC Winston as blessing for struggling farmers and vendors.

“Before the cyclone hit Fiji, the price of yaqona was between $30 and $45 a kilogram of lewena, but after the cyclone it increased to $90 a kg,” he said.

“It’s good business and we have benefitted a lot and it has helped improved our living standard. I am a grog farmer too so I don’t buy grog as I supply my own and make good money.”