By Brian Lezutuni
COMMERCIAL Kava exports into Australia could begin at the end of this year, according to Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Zed Seselja.
In 2019, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison announced Australia would conduct a pilot programme for commercial importation of kava as part of its commitment to the Pacific under its Pacific Step-up.
Minister Seselja’s comments are the first official acknowledgement of a start date for the pilot since it failed to meet its promised 2020 deadline.
“It was delayed as a result of COVID, but we intend to progress it over the back-end of this year,” Minister Seselja told regional and local journalists this week.
Kava drinkers in Australia who are being forced to pay as much as SBD $2107 ($350 AUD) for a kilogram of impure kava from black market will be delighted.
With reduced international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies usually provided by travelling friends and family have decreased dramatically creating a shortage which has pushed up prices.
The 2019 decision to double the amount of kava that could be imported for personal use from 2kg to 4kg has helped but there are still not enough travelling friends and family to resolve the kava drought.
Seselja said consultations about re-starting commercial imports via a pilot programme have been ongoing, the most recent being a Kava Forum in Canberra.
“We’re consulting with our Pacific Island communities… the Kava Forum that I went to in Canberra was part of that, to hear that, and I had my first opportunity to have kava and so that was, that was a wonderful thing to do.
“Apart from consultation with Pacific Island communities, the Australian Government is also talking with its indigenous community leaders and health authorities.
“To make sure that there aren’t any unintended consequences of reintroduction of commercial quantities of kava coming into the country.”
He said the kava ban imposed several years ago was put in place following concerns about it coming into remote indigenous communities.
“So, we’re working through that process, we are keen to see it progress, the Prime Minister is keen to see it progress,” he said.