FIJI representatives within the International Kava Executive Council (IKEC) will work on a two- year road map after the ban on kava in the European countries was lifted.
Fiji Kava Council chairman, Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo said the removal of the restriction on kava trade in European countries was a result of a 10-day roundtable consultation between Pacific Island ambassadors, European Commission leaders based in Brussels and the German Government Authorities in Berlin.
Kava trade had been restricted in the European countries since 2002. Mr Nawalowalo said the recent development on kava would open the way for Pacific island nations to trade with the EU.
"This will involve immediate consultation between aggrieved European pharmaceutical companies and German health authorities 'BfArM' to complete scientific procedures as well as support various applications for alternative kava registration for medicinal drug use, traditional herbal, food beverage as well as GI registration as a protected commodity in Europe," he said. The lifting of the ban will open up a lucrative kava market for Fiji as an agro-commodity to the EU, says Mr Nawalowalo.
"We also acquired legal advice from European lawyers Frantino Vergano, under our funding facilities by TradeCom, which confirmed our legitimate rights to seek WTO intervention and involvement. Fiji desperately needs to promote kava as an alternative to the sugar industry in EU and will be the answer to our economic plight," he added.
Fiji was earning close to $100 million per annum since 1998 prior to the ban while in 2003 IKEC registered a combined claim of 'loss of revenue' of around $US200 million per annum for the Pacific Island producers.
"I will be calling on the Minister for Primary industries as well as the Prime Minister to explain in detail the break through that has been achieved and the need for Government to facilitate infrastructural support and fast-track production by engaging the kava farmers in the 14 provinces." The European Union based in Suva is expected to comment on the matter today.
EU lifts ban on kava
A ban on the consumption of kava in European countries has been lifted. The ban was imposed six years ago because of serious health concerns, including alleged reports of deaths related to liver failure, caused by drinking kava. Kava is a mildy narcotic herbal drink popular in Pacific countries.
After ten days of talks in Brussels involving International Kava Executive Council representatives, Pacific Island ambassadors and European Commission leaders, the ban was lifted. Chairman of Fiji's Kava Council, Ratu Josetaki Nawalowalo, says the decision will mean Pacific Island nations can resume trade with the EU. He's told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat, the decision upholds their belief that Kava is safe
"As far as we are concerned it was always a big mistake. It was all uncalled for," he said. "We gave evidence that pacific islanders over 3,000 years have been consuming kava and there was no reason and no data to confirm that it had killed people."
Pacific kava exports to Europe expected to resume
The International Kava Executive Council expects the kava trade to return to normal within two years after an agreement reached in Brussels.
The Council, the European Commission and the German Government have agreed on a two-year process to restore the trade after six years of bans over possible health risks.
The Fiji Kava Council chairman, Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo, who is one of the international council representatives, says two factors helped convince the Europeans to reconsider the bans.“The fact that because of the overwhelming scientific evidence they have no more legal grounds to stand on, and the fact that we have now also sought legal advice from European lawyers, who have advised that the position taken by the German authorities was found to be wanting.”Ratu Josateki says they have allowed two years to sort out any remaining conflicts in the research and for Pacific growers to improve quality control of kava, before the trade can resume.