Register Kava as Pacific product or lose it: Pacific Academic

Locally produced Kava
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By Brian Lezutuni

A regional academic says the patent of Kava as a pacific commodity must be taken forward if regional countries are to depend on it as a source of economic sustenance.

Dr Satish Chand Professor of Finance in the School of Business at the University of New South Wales and based at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, has warned Pacific Islanders to be careful in ensuring that Kava remains a Pacific Island commodity.

The professor made the remark as fears emerge that once other regions like Asia start growing kava without paying money to Pacific Island countries, the prices will drop dramatically and the Pacific will not be able to compete. Effectively kava could become an Asian product.

“I have said in multiple forums that we should look at registering our intellectual property to kava so that kava remains a Pacific island product

“Wait until kava leaks out to Asia or to some commercial production abroad and then that’s when the price …is going to erode quite quickly,” Professor Chand remarked when meeting Pacific Island journalists via zoom last week.

Trade and Investment Commissioner of Pacific Trade Invest Australia, Caleb Jarvis also raised concerns after hearing that kava is being grown  in Vietnam at the moment.

“This is concerning,” he added.

The call to register Kava as an Intellectual property of the Pacific should not be taken lightly. Fiji recently was involved in a bitter fight over the trademarking of its ‘Bula’ word in the United States.

The trademarking of ‘Bula’ was carried out by a US businessman for his bar in Florida, “Bula on the Beach”, at which he sells kava. The Fiji Government brought its fight to the United States Patent and Trademark Office as well as the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

There is, however, an increasing opportunity for Pacific Island to tap into the market in the United States for Kava.

Mr Jarvis thinks there is opportunity to expand the kava market, with the proliferation of Kava bars in the United States.

“It’s a completely different segment and rather than people going out socially and getting munted on 20 beers or the whiskey, is it not a better thing for them to socialise around a bowl of kava? He asked.

“I respect kava and its cultural significance but it is one of the great development tools that can play out across the whole region if we can create new international markets for it.