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Kava industry in Vanuatu … dramatic post-cyclone recovery. Image: Vanuatu Digest

By Jonas Cullwick in Port Vila

Kava export returns in 2015 after Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated parts of Vanuatu as it trekked through the country on March 12-14 reached Vt180 million (NZ$2.4 million).

One year later — in 2016 — the figure jumped to Vt800 million (NZ$10.4 million), according to the Director of Biosecurity Vanuatu, Timothy Tumukon.

Responding to questions from Kizzy Kalsakau host of 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News programme if government was helping farmers grow more kava after Cyclone Pam, Tumukon responded: “Most definitely.”

Tumukon added: “In 2015, when the cyclone struck us 2 years ago exactly [Monday] you’re exactly right, our export data was that Vanuatu then earned Vt180 million from its export after Cyclone Pam destroyed most of our kava.

“Last year’s figures stood at Vt800 million that was earned from kava.

“Now that gives us a lot of comfort that kava has recovered since Cyclone Pam,” he said.


Tumukon said that to maintain the momentum, the government right now was looking at strengthening its assistance to rural communities along with the PHAMA programme to establish testing facilities and also to establish kava nurseries so that it can distribute planting material to areas where you don’t have enough planting materials for farmers to plant.

Tumukon said government was discussing this with the Department of Agriculture for the Government to provide additional funding to establish nurseries on islands where farmers would like to increase their production of kava.

There were also awareness materials being sent out to farmers about what kava varieties they should be planting, and also how they should be preparing their products for their market.

Jonas Cullwick, former general manager of the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC), is now a senior journalist with the Daily Post.