Sustainability of trade in kava, which was severely compromised by a 2002 ban on exports from Pacific Islands to European pharmaceutical companies, has reached a new phase. Exporters vigorously fought the ban, imposed as a result of claims that kava pills, sold as herbal remedies for reducing anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression, were toxic to the liver of individuals who took them. Concerted reaction by Pacific interests such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat led to the formation of the International Kava Executive Committee, which sought ways to get the ban lifted. A 2007 World Health Organization report found that the process of manufacturing the pills was more likely to be toxic to some pill takers than the kavalactones drunk in traditional beverages; quality control and changing the manufacturing process could allow exports of kava to Europe to resume.

Meanwhile, alternative outlets for sales of kava have been growing, which may help to sustain the kava trade and provide an income for farmers. Expanding Pacific Islander communities in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are using kava to maintain identity ties to their homelands, such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and Pohnpei. In parallel, sales of kava within local communities are increasing through markets, nakamal, and kava cafes, and Web sites promote the product. These tracks for sustaining kava trade will need further development throughout the Pacific region, and beyond.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 265-297
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.