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REIJELI KIKAU, Fiji - MORE than 100,000 kava farmers, processors and dealers — including those in villages, homes and small stands — would have to apply for a licence to sell the product when the Cabinet-approved Kava Council Bill is passed in Parliament this year.
The Bill would place control of the kava industry in the hands of Fiji Kava Council chairman Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo.
Ratu Josateki confirmed that even those who sold kava in villages, homes and small grog stands would have to follow the proposed legislation or face charges.
"Those that operate without a licence after the Bill has been enacted could be charged and could pay $2000 fine or three years imprisonment," he said.
He said the piece of legislation was expected to be tabled in Parliament between May and June this year.
He said the Bill was drafted so there could be uniformity in the processing, packaging and caring of yaqona plants before it was consumed locally and exported overseas.
He said the draft Bill allowed for controls on the sale of yaqona, ensuring greater care was taken when the plant was processed and packaged here.
Ratu Josateki said the poor quality and packaging of yaqona sold overseas was one of the main reasons why a kava ban was placed by European countries last year.
"With this act in place, we will be able to monitor and issue licences to all those who plant and deal with kava and have a criteria of processing the powdered drink and packing it to meet the standards needed.
"Also the planters, processors and dealers would only sell kava once they have met the requirements by the council and this is recognised worldwide," he said.
He said once the Bill was enacted, a period would be given for all the farmers, processors and dealers to apply for a licence with the council.
He believed the Act would be implemented by the end of the year, solving several quality problems the industry faced.
When questioned what could happen to families who depended on money gained from grog sale in villages, homes and grog stand for a living, he said there was a law to follow and they had to apply for the licence and meet the criteria before being issued a licence.
"If not then they have to face the consequences, as much as we want to help them, they have to work within the law and not go against it," he said. Lami Kava Limited director Jone Lili said they already had a licence to sell pounded kava for the past 10 years.
"We receive yaqona plants from farmers in Kadavu every week and there is nothing wrong with this new legislation," he said.
He said they would apply for a licence with the council if the Bill was enacted but it was those in the villages and those selling from homes that needed awareness on the issue.