Vanuatu’s Intellectual Property Office is undertaking public consultation on a draft bill to protect the quality and cultural and commercial value of Vanuatu kava.
The office, which is part of the Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Industries and Tourism, is discussing a draft Geographical Indication (Kava) Bill with kava farmers in the leading kava producing islands of Santo, Ambae, Pentecost, Maewo and Malekula.
The draft bill which aims to protect kava consumers and the intellectual property rights of kava producers and operators should go before Parliament at the end of this year and if passed will become law.
The term ‘geographical indication’ refers to a sign or mark being placed on a product that shows the goods originate from a particular province, island or locality within Vanuatu.
The sign or mark would be applied to products where the specific quality, reputation or other characteristics of the goods rely heavily on their geographical origin.
John Stephen Huri, the Intellectual Property Office’s Senior Intellectual Property Officer, says the Geographical Indication Bill will eventually cover other Vanuatu products, such as handicrafts, but the Government wants to start with the protection of kava.
He says the law would protect and help to promote kava varieties that originate from specific areas in Vanuatu.
“For example, the Melomelo Kava species originates on Vanuatu’s Ambae Island,” Mr Huri said.
“You can plant it in Santo and sell it, but it will be classified as a mixed noble variety in the market, not as pure Melomelo kava.
“That’s because under a Geographical Indication Law, only kava grown on Ambae could be called Melomelo kava.”
“The law would mean only kava farmers from Ambae could sell Melomelo kava.”
Mr Huri says if the law is introduced in Vanuatu, buyers and sellers will be able to identify the origin or source of a kava variety.
“It will also allow producers of kava species that are sought after by global markets to sell their particular kava species at higher, more competitive prices,” he said.
‘The law will protect the sale of kava species originating from a particular area to ensure only producers from that area can be involved in its marketing and sale.”
The Intellectual Property Office says the Boroguru Kava species from Pentecost is a good example of a product that would be protected under the new law.
Boroguru Kava has become one of the world’s top-selling kava species.
“Kava identified as Boroguru Kava must originate on Pentecost,” Mr Huri said.
“We have been discussing with kava farmers on Santo, the importance of identifying kava as having been grown on Santo, so it can be branded and sold as Santo kava.
“This new law will allow us to brand kava species, so consumers or importers will be able to identify that a product is, for example, Santo kava.”
Jack Antfalo, the Vice Chairman of the South Santo Area Two Kava Farmers Association, says two kava varieties have been grown for centuries in their region -the Pala rasul and Chambir species.
Mr Antfalo supports the Government consultation with kava farmers on the draft bill.
“I would also like this draft bill to assist with the control of prices of both green and dry kava products to ensure buyers don’t mess with the farmers on kava prices,” he said.
In Vanuatu’s existing Kava Act 2020, 12 noble varieties of Vanuatu kava are permitted to be sold in local and export markets.