A few cares too many
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CTA. 2002. A few cares too many. Spore 98. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46495
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore98.pdf
The seasonal cyclones stayed away from the Pacific Herbs Business Forum held in mid-February 2002 in Vanuatu. The winds of trade, though, blew like a gale through a sedate encounter of scientists, producers and traders of medicinal plants, blowing...
The seasonal cyclones stayed away from the Pacific Herbs Business Forum held in mid-February 2002 in Vanuatu. The winds of trade, though, blew like a gale through a sedate encounter of scientists, producers and traders of medicinal plants, blowing down quite a few illusions, and a fair number of business plans. The problem at hand was the apparent collapse of the European market (literally on the other side of the world) for the kava plant and its by-products, and worries that the key North American market would go wobbly too. Kava consists of the dried, whole or cut rhizome (stem) or root of Piper methysticum Forster, and has been widely used throughout the Pacific for untold centuries in religious ceremonies, and as a relaxant and socialising substance. With a surge in popularity in the West in the 1990s, and despite some health cautions, the region s exports had risen to US$ 60 million (EUR 69 million) by the end of the decade. Then came a problem of overstocking, followed by drastic allegations that some 20 deaths in northern Europe were related to kava consumption. All it took was for a few European governments to ask their health sectors to voluntarily withdraw kava products from shops, and the economies of several Pacific nations sagged immediately although the smart ones had already been building up alternative exports, such as cloves, ginger, vanilla and flowers. All this turned the three-day Forum into an non-stop 24 hours a day event: the days filled with a richly informative exchange of scientific and trading information on all sorts of medicinal plants. The nights, largely kava-free, bristled with Kava Crisis plans for lobbying the political and economic powers of the West to tone down the situation and seek a reasonable resolution. Somewhat chastened by their vulnerability to the fickle nature of the medicinal plant market, and perhaps, some murmured, to more sinister corporate competition, the hundred-plus delegates from two dozen nations adopted plans to diversify products and avoid over-dependence on market leaders the next one at risk seems to be noni, the juice of the fruit of the Morinda citrifolia L tree. The consensus is that strength lies in numbers and knowledge an object well understood by co-sponsors Commonwealth Secretariat, CTA and CTA s sister Centre for the Development of Enterprise. After a 2000 workshop in Africa, and this none-too pacific forum, plans are now being made for a Caribbean encounter. [caption to illustration] Kava prices have tumbled. What next?