Michael Louze is not only the Director of the South Sea Commodities and the Chief Founder of the ultimate Kava World platform but he is one of our nation’s strong agricultural economic advocate and like many others he is also a persistent global kava reformer.
Michael was raised as a child back in the hearts of Vanuatu then later left for studies to France and West Indies. It is not till early 1999 after Michael’s return from studies overseas where he develops his capacity and passion in agriculture working and networking with several agricultural jobs such as coffee in Tanna, cocoa in Malekula , plantations in Norsup and then in Santo. “ Kava was one of the activities amongst others , but it’s importance grew bigger when I worked in Santo for the biggest kava exporter at that time. In 2010, I resigned and moved to Vila and started SSC, which trade and distribute various agri products but mostly export kava.. Kava is a very competitive market , and because of the higher operational cost to operate from Vila than Santo, the lesser volumes etc. I had to think about a strategy to make the activity sustainable, so decided to go for hundred percent top quality and exclusively sell selected Noble kava cultivars “explained Michael.
South Sea Commodities is solely owned by Michael and is a small structured Vanuatu Kava wholesaler. With the export warehouse located in Vila and a well organized network in the islands; dry kava is purchased directly from selected agents and kava farmers throughout the Islands and is then collected and processed for export to various regional and international markets. “ I like my freedom and been able to travel around ( with always kava in the back of my head)..and I already have my quantity of work, so my goal is not to increase volume crazily, but maybe to organize the operation differently to grow without more work and headaches ahaha”, added Mr Michael. SSC has been dealing with the kava industry for almost ten years and those regular travels through the islands are prioritized to sourcing the best kava for its market ensuring the quality of the product exported.
Given experiences and a wider expertise in international kava marketing; Michael stated that Vanuatu by far is the biggest kava exporter, Fiji however is of a fairly similar level producer but export much less as they have a huge local market for their dry kava. Michael further clarified that it is obvious kava juices consumed in other producing PIC is often much weaker and this is not solely a result from different cultivars and varieties but firstly the kava juice is extracted from dry not green fresh kava and most importantly this is preferably how most regional kava consumers in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga like to drink their kava for a more relaxant refreshing drink rather than the ‘Vanuatu style’ drinking where the mix is more concentrated with an after reaction of instant kava drunkness.
“Kava is not an easy market !” expressed Michael “it is already a challenge in itself coordinating kava supply, demand and stabilizing the market prices. There are constant quality issues from a very inhomogeneous supply as kava is grown and harvested differently in various geographical environments by mainly small holders or small scale farms. It is therefore normal that the supply fluctuates all the time, and it indeed affects the prices, as for any commodity or agricultural goods. “For the past 5 years, we had a Kava shortage which made Kava harder to source but much easier to sell, and so the price of Kava increased by more than 100 percent .. The high prices motivated the farmers and lot of Kava planting happened and now we have more kava coming into the market ..”
Furthermore, South Sea Commodity aims to develop its kava network and kava value adding, not only necessarily by further processing but mainly securing the supply and develop new little explored niche markets. Since SSC commencement of operation it has played a remarkable contribution to the agricultural economic development; promoting Vanuatu kava through its regional and international customers and being recognized as a top quality supplier, in align with the supply chain from kava farmers to the kava drinkers. Thus, this kava industry developed contributes to the social and agricultural economic empowerment, developing the rural areas like never before; providing a working space for everyone, keeping the youths in the islands and therefore limiting urban drift.
All of this awareness and work help promotes kava quality, ensuring kava remains as Vanuatu Green Gold for the generations to come.