The Kava Shortage in Fiji

The Kava Shortage in Fiji


Fiji has been hit by an overwhelming kava shortage. This is the third week in a row that the island nation is experiencing a shortage of the much valued cash crop.

A shortage of the herb had been projected in March and it came true as the country’s markets lacked kava stocks for the better part of June and July. The crisis had appeared to fade around August only to resurge in September with even more viciousness.

Traders helpless as shortage continues

Kava traders in Fiji are at a loss on what to do following the dwindling supplies of their backbone crop. A section of kava traders in Suva market on Friday decried the helpless state they have been left in following the current scarcity of the lucrative crop.

Speaking to the Fiji Times, one trader by the name Ritesh Kumar said that he and his colleagues had been carrying cash to purchase the crop with but there wasn’t any kava to buy. He further explained how traders were desperately raiding a kava cargo within seconds of its arrival at the market. He compared the wild rush for kava to the movement of sharks pouncing on a prey.

Kumar has been in the kava trade for more than 20 years and is also an executive member of the Suva United Vendors Association.

Empty market stands

A spot check by the same newspaper revealed empty stalls all over the market. This shows just how dire the scarcity situation is.

A second trader called Mere Lesivou who spoke to the national newspaper said she had completely exhausted her supply of the herb. Lesivou usually sources her merchandise from her family farm in Lomaiviti Island where her husband and son tend to the crops. She had up until then been using what had remained following the damage of crops by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in January.

Lucrative business

Even though it has now been downed by the existing shortage, the business of kava trading hasn’t always been a pain in the neck of traders. Most traders have reaped very handsome returns from it and thus the reason they have stuck to it all through the years. Lesivou for example, has educated two daughters up to university level through earnings from the green crop.

In relation to the handsome returns from the trade, cracks are emerging that there are kava traders in Suva who slyly evade tax in spite of earning well from their trader. A kava vendor who sought anonymity for fear of vindication told the newspaper about colleagues who have been enjoying taxless profits and called on the relevant authorities to regulate the trade.

Shortage caused by rainy weather

The current lack of kava in Fiji is being blamed on the recent spate of heavy rains. Farmers are having difficulty drying their crop and therefore enough supply isn’t available.

The little amounts of kava that get to reach suva market at the moment are mainly sourced from Kadavu. One trader told the paper how she had declined other traders’ offer to purchase kava from him as he had to ration it until his next shipment arrived from Kadavu.

Meanwhile, the Fijian government is seeking to solve the problem of periodical kava kava shortages by rehabilitating selected areas and cultivating the crop on it.

Prices of the crop are expected to stabilise once planting and harvesting returns to normally. This however may not be the case until after three to six years.

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