Kava processing project proposed for Pentecost

Pentecost chiefs have welcomed the proposed construction of a kava processing on their island.

Chief Olivier Tabi from Ilamre village when presenting a traditional Pentecost red mat to the Minister of Trade, James Bule, told the minister that people are tired of failed government promises.

He told Mr Bule that the project is a good project but he is a “doubting Thomas”, like that in the Bible.

The Chief said that he will only believe when the project is fulfilled.

Mr Bule launched the kava processing factory at Lese area, Central Pentecost, during his official visit on the island last week.

The ceremony was marked by the erecting of a stone where the site to build the factory should be.

This was followed by a pig-killing ceremony by the Minister.

The kava factory is a long-time dream for the farmers on Pentecost, an island well known regionally and internationally for its original variety known as Borogo.

Since the commercialization of the traditional drink in the early ‘80s by the well known businessman, Late Charlot Longwah, farmers have struggled to bring their product for sale in Port Vila and Luganville.

The construction of the factory on the island should bring an end to the struggle of farmers and enable them to make more income out of their products.

Currently with the sale of raw green kava, farmers are getting less monies than processed one.

One kilogram of green is currently sold at 300 to 1,000 vatu per kilo and dried kava is sold at 4,000 vatu a kilo.

Chief Tabi urged Minister Bule that people of Pentecost want to see finished product and direct export from their island.

The factory will also end the difficulties faced by the farmers when they come to Port Vila to sell their products.

Travelling to urban centres with the kava for sale by either a father or mother has led to social problems such as theft, where the kava money raised was stolen, and even divorce when being sidetracked by what the towns have to offer.

One of the farmers from Pentecost was found dead at Nambatu Lagoon while he was in Port Vila to sell his kava in order to get his wife to deliver their first child.

After Vanuatu’s Independence in 1980, the only people drinking kava in Port Vila at that time were from Pentecost and Tanna, until the commercialization of the product by late Logwah.

Currently kava is planted on the other islands like Efate and consumed on all islands of Vanuatu.

Kava plays an important part in Vanuatu’s economy.

There are about 1,000 kava bars in Port Vila providing over 1,000 jobs.

Known scientifically as Piper Methysticum and also known as Vanuatu Green Gold, kava is one the main commodities of Vanuatu which is exported to New Caledonia, Fiji and United State as dried kava.

There are currently kava bars in New York.

About the author: Aaron Taravaki
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