Kava quality and Standards , challenges faced by the industry

With our production increasing, we need to make sure our markets develop also, and for kava markets to develop, we need to insure kava exported follow some quality standards.

Those standards are generally a combination of the exporter own standard, the oversea importer requirement , and of course the country of export own quality requirements ( i.e Vanuatu Kava Quality standard and the Vanuatu Kava Act). Kava is a food , in a similar way as coffee or tea, so the same requirements and standards apply.

At the occasion of the World Standard Day on 13th October 2019, the Vanuatu Bureau oF Standard ( Ex. Food Lab😅) organized a forum, and we were given the opportunity to share our experience and the issues that the kava Industry are trying to address.

KAVA QUALITY AND STANDARDS- An Exporter perspective.

Lots of potential factors can affect the quality of our kava exported.

A quick overview in pictures below:

There are lots of microbial potential contaminants in the soil , so it is important to thoroughly wash the kava Roots after harvesting to remove soil etc.
Almost none of the kava producing areas have access to running water, so washing and peeling the kava in the rivers is often much better than re-using a muddy dish of scarce rainwater .. But the water in the river is not a drinkable water and is a likely source of contamination from e. Coli and alike, coming from bush latrines, wild animals (cattle, pigs, rat etc…)
Peeling is a must for basal roots (“Chips”).
Personal hygiene (washing thoroughly with soap) before handling food ( kava) is often sadly overlooked
During the drying process, Kava is again exposed to multiple contamination factors: roaming chicken, rats, cats, insects ..
Storage is also an issue.
Kava is also multi handled I.e brought to the shore then transported to another place in a speed boat , then onward to another place before getting shipped.
With the high humidity we have and the hygroscopy of kava, it is often an ideal terroir for micros growth and mould development
Shipping is also an issue.
kava bags are often not segregated and stored inside , and get wet with the rain, saltwater, contaminated by other products transported (…) , fuel, oil etc…
the wharves too could be a source of contamination
All bags are cupsided and kava selected
unacceptable quality are rejected and thrown away.
Mouldy kava above – internal mould , it’s over !

Mouldy kava chips

The water used is treated by Uv to avoid potential re contamination through contaminated water. The presence of UV treatment unit for water is a Bio Security requirement for all kava exporters in Vanuatu.

Kava is re- dried to make sure moisture content is low enough to stop mould development and microbial growth

Between the purchase in the island and the actual quantity exported , there is a loss often more than 15%!!

Kava is then packed in new poly bags and ready to Biosecurity inspection and National bureau of standard analysis before getting the green light to be exported.

Vanuatu Bio security Officer coming to 1- inspect the kava visually and 2- collect sample that will be analysed anonymously by the Vanuatu Bureau of Standard to confirm if the kava is Noble and can be exported.

There had been huge progress in the standards of the operators to improve the quality exported, but there are still room for improvement all along the value chain .

Kava is a food and should be treated as such , with respect, respecting GOod Agricultural Practice and Food Handling basics 😎✌️

Happy Drinking 😎

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About the author: Michael Louze

Owner South Seas Commodities
Kava Exporter