Fiji: the value of vuvale

Vuvale - it means “we are family”. And it was one of the major themes during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent visit to Fiji and the University of South Pacific.

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Vuvale is important in Fiji where leaders are embracing Australia’s renewed focus and strategy on the Pacific region.

"Kava production is fast becoming a key industry for several Pacific island countries.”

A stable Pacific region, with Australia as a strong ally, will help attract foreign capital and create local job opportunities critical in the Pacific. In fact, no matter where in the world you are, many socio-economic problems can be lessened if everyone who is willing is given an opportunity to work.

Fiji is likely to see tangible benefits of Australia’s larger role in the Pacific, both in the short and longer term.

Intriguingly (I’m sure for those outside the Pacific) among sporting and cultural initiatives, one of the more immediate benefits is the opportunity to export kava.

What is kava?

Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub. It comes in different forms including:

  • Brownish-coloured drink
  • Brown powder
  • Capsules
  • Extracts
  • Drops

Scientifically, Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body.

It is also known as Kava kava, kawa, waka, lewena, yaqona, grog (Fiji), sakau (Pohnpei), ‘awa (Hawaii), ‘ava (Samoa) and wati (New Guinea).

· Information taken from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Kava production is fast becoming a key industry for several Pacific island countries including Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga, so the Australian government’s announcement to consider a plan to relax restrictions on kava imports into the country is most welcome.

In Fiji, kava production now constitutes 30 per cent of total agricultural output from a meagre 8 per cent just five years ago.  In the US, the proliferation of kava is making many ask whether this is the ‘new coffee’.

Opening up new markets will generate additional income and employment, bring in foreign currency and support tens of thousands of people in the Pacific who are dependent on the kava trade for their livelihood.

Long term commitments

Vuvale has enormous importance for ANZ’s own business in Fiji having recently marked our 138th year in the country. ANZ has had a rich history in Fiji and, as the largest commercial bank, continues to play an important role in helping business and communities grow, to make the Pacific an even better place to live.

Support and stability

The Australian announcement follows in the footsteps of New Zealand’s commitment to provide $NZ13.5 million over four years to support the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program. Under the PHAMA program, both the Australian and New Zealand government are partnering with governments in Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa to develop national kava quality standards and establish kava nurseries.

Australia’s new collaborative approach to Pacific development is supported by both sides of politics. This reduces political risks and helps drive regional stability – both important from a business perspective.

Australia will also bring a strong mentoring role to the Pacific, by building capacity and modernising institutions; both of which will be good for business. After all, cooperation and understanding are fundamental to families.

Saud Minam is Country Head of Fiji at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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