France contributing to structuration of Vanuatu’s Kava industry

Dr Vincent Lebot introduces quality-testing procedures of Kava to the French Ambassador to Vanuatu & Salomon Islands, Mr. Pierre Fournier.

With Kava representing 80% of Vanuatu’s exportations to New Caledonia and the whole industry of Kava in Vanuatu producing and commercializing about 250 tons of kava a year, the need to offer the best insurances in terms of quality has become a public-health imperative for Caledonian authorities and a strategic commercial stake for Vanuatu’s Kava-exporters.


The regional trade of kava-related products now approximating 6,000 tons a year, so the need to define internationally-recognized standards in terms of quality has become dire. Thanks to the help of France, Vanuatu has now been able to define and integrate into the Codex Alimentarius of the FAO/WHO its own regional standards.


France and New Caledonia have jointly supported a project that resulted in the analysis of 1053 samples collected by Vanuatu’s Department of Biosecurity. At the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Dr Vincent  Lebot from VARTC has lead a practical research project entitled “Quality and Security of the Kava Industry”. The project has benefited from the Regional Cooperation Convention (RCC), a mechanism that allows France, New Caledonia and Vanuatu to jointly pursue cooperation projects of regional importance. Every year, the three parties commonly select projects which are being financed on a par by Paris and Nouméa. The next call for projects will be in March and will be publicized on the Facebook page and Internet site of the French embassy in Vanuatu.


In order to make sure that only products of the highest quality are being exported to foreign markets, the project has allowed Vanuatu to test the chemical composition of all samples selected. The aim is detect levels of kavalactones — which is basically the component that consumers enjoy – and flavokawains – which, on the contrary, is potentially dangerous for the health of consumers. A specific colour test has been developed with the aim of easily identifying Kavas that contain the highest amount of the undesired flavokawains.


Throughout the project, DARD and VARTC have been able to train Vanuatu’s exporters and New Caledonia’s importers to the best agricultural and trade practices. Four members of the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards have also contributed to the development of the testing procedures and the results of the research have been made largely available to the main actors of the industry and internationally. Overall, the study has proven that most products are of a good quality. Room for improvement has been identified and the actors of the industry have been made aware of the areas where they need to concentrate in order to insure that only the best quality products are being exported abroad.

Kava-Quality testing procedures at all the Food Quality Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD): The team has developed chemical testing procedures that are now considered to constitute the region.

Kava samples that have been tested during the project: more than 80% of products exported to New Caledonia have proven to to be the highest standards.

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