Vuvale Relationship To Positively Impact Grass Roots Farmers In Fiji 

Fiji Kava has established a supply chain model that involves the establishment of a collection hub at Tutu on Taveuni. The hub utilizes nursery equipment received from the Australia and New Zealand funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Access Plus Program (PHAMA Plus) in a long-standing partnership to strengthen the supply of high-quality noble varieties of kava and support the expansion of high quality exports.

The commercial nursery will be used to grow select noble varieties of kava which Fiji Kava will procure from Tutu farmers under the terms of a supply agreement. Fiji Kava who processes kava on Ovalau in the Lomaiviti group has secured product ranging in mass market retail channels in international markets including with Coles Supermarket and Chemist Warehouse in Australia. Fiji Kava has recently commenced the rollout of its suite of products in the United States. The Australian Securities Exchange listed company formally commissioned the nursery on the 23 June, 2022.

The Marist-run Tutu Rural Training Centre (RTC) on Taveuni Island equips young men, women and married to excel as self-employed farmers and craftspeople in Cakaudrove, Fiji. It is the most successful agricultural training program in Fiji, if not the Pacific.

Father Petero Matairau heads the program in Tutu and commented that the new move will help the current and post-graduates of Tutu Rural Training Centre utilize their resources well to facilitate market demand and have an impact on the value chain analysis for kava. Building key partnerships as such helps align work activities so that partners benefit from this relationship.

ITaukei Trust Fund Board is an institution established under the iTaukei Trust Fund Act, for the purposes of fostering the advancement of the iTaukei and Rotumans by promoting initiatives that will better their standard of living and enhance appropriate cultural traditions and values

The opening ceremony will be attended by Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs, Mr. Pita Tagicakirewa who is also the Chairman of iTaukei Trust Fund Board, as well as CEO ITaukei Trust, Mr. Aisake Taito and PHAMA Plus’s Country Manager, Mr. Navitalai Tuivuniwai.

Fiji-born and Australian-based Founder and Director of Fiji Kava, Zane Yoshida, said the partnership with Tutu is a pivotal step in strengthening its robust supply chain in Fiji.

“This partnership with Tutu is the first of its kind in relation to kava in Fiji if not the Pacific. It will help improve the quality of kava in the future,” Mr Yoshida said ahead of the signing ceremony.

“Kava is enjoying a resurgence in western markets, and a robust, sustainable, and traceable supply chain establishes a platform for guaranteed quality to help shape the global resurgence of kava.

“Not only will it have major sustainability benefits of kava for the industry, but also continues to provide Fiji Kava with a unique differentiator and leading edge over its competitors as we experience growth in our domestic and international markets.’’

This partnership reinforces the Ministry of Agriculture’s five-year Strategic Development Plan, which is particularly focused on the development of a resilient agriculture sector and one that delivers economic opportunity and environmental sustainability and climate smart agriculture.

“Our work also complements an investment by the Australian Government-funded Pacific Horticulture and Agriculture Market Access (PHAMA) program in defining kava varieties and establishing quality standards,” Mr Yoshida said.

The Australian government in December 2021 announced the commercial pilot import trials of drinking kava into Australia. As of 25 May 2022, approximately 46 tonnes of drinking kava were imported into Australia. Fiji Kava has also secured ranging of drinking kava in approximately 750+ Coles stores.

Export of Fijian kava has experienced strong growth over the last five years, growing at an average of 32 per cent a year, driven largely by demand from the US and New Zealand. With Australia now trialling kava, classified as a food, exports from Fiji expect to increase significantly given it is estimated that 50% of imports into Australia to date originate from Fiji.

The CEO iTaukei Trust Fund, Mr. Aisake Taito said that “Tutu is a well-established agricultural training facility for indigenous youths. Having been around for over four decades, it is a tried and tested successful agricultural training model. Tutu graduates upon completion of their studies and upon getting assimilated back into their communities are well respected and revered. We are delighted to be partnering in this pilot project with the TRTC, we will incaltrate the successes from the Tutu learning experience and blend it with our own objectives for commercial self-determination for our iTaukei and Rotuman youths, through our developmental partnership with Fiji Kava and PHAMA Plus.

Fiji Kava’s established health and wellness export market will add its economic strength to this new value-adding chain. TTFB will establish and link clusters of kava growers who will supply their raw kava produce to Fiji KAVA and in doing so stand to gain direct benefits from the entire production chain, initially through the farming of kava to producing the kava capsules for the lucrative international health and wellness market.

This initiative fulfils our key mandate of enhancing the economic ambitions and livelihoods of iTaukei and Rotumans”.

“Improving the quality and sustainability of kava productionis a priority for PHAMA Plus, as is encouraging younger farmers and women to enter the business. By working with an established leader in the Fijian kava industry like Fiji Kava, we are able to more effectively progress the significant export opportunities that exist for noble kava to the benefit of both exporters and Fijian farming households,” said PHAMA Plus Country Manager for Fiji, Navitalai Tuivuniwai.

“This also presents export opportunities with the Australian Kava Commercial Pilot that is allowing commercial imports of kava into Australia. The flow on from the demand of this new market to Australia is expected to benefit our vuvale(family), particularly farming households who supply to exporters like Fiji Kava.”

Mr Yoshida also noted that the Fiji Kava Bill, once enacted, will establish the Fiji Kava council to regulate the cultivation, processing, transportation, and marketing of kava. The legislation and other guidelines and regulations means that the industry is now far better prepared to deal with the current Kava boom, compared to the late nineties when a sharp increase in demand couldn’t be matched by quality control.

Further the Codex Alimentarius Commission, established with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO), are testing a Kava regional standard to regulate the Pacific kava market and bring higher quality, safe and disease-free kava back to the international market. The standard will standardise procedure for the growth, harvesting and processing of kava.

Fiji Kava has established a supply chain model that involves the establishment of a collection hub at Tutu on Taveuni.