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Export markets for Kampot pepper keep growing strong

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
Kampot pepper farmers expect their harvest to increase this year due to increased rainfall. KT/Mai Vireak

With Kampot pepper’s coveted geographical indicator status from the European Union, farmers now find it lucrative to grow the much sought after spice. Khmer Times’ Chea Vannak recently spoke to Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, on the revival of the pepper industry in the province.
KT: How has GI certification helped boost Kampot pepper production?
Mr Lay:  Kampot pepper gained geographic indicator (GI) status in 2016 from the EU and recently we have been given GI recognition by Thailand and Vietnam. We have received an increasing number of applications from farmers to join our association so that they can get the go-ahead to plant Kampot pepper and export their harvests to either the EU, Thailand or Vietnam. We are currently considering 50 applicants.
In 2016, our association rejected 15 applications because their proposed pepper farms did not meet the prerequisite standards demanded by the EU. They are always welcome to resubmit their applications when they meet the GI standards.
KT: What is the progress and development of Kampot pepper?
Mr Lay: We have about 210 hectares of land planted with Kampot pepper that is registered with our association. The 210 hectares are farmed by 387 families.
In 2010, when the association was first formed, we had only 100 registered farmer families with about 10 hectares of farm land.
We expect that harvest this year will increase to 100 tonnes due to increased rainfall. In 2016, we only harvested 73 tonnes because of the extended drought and exceptionally high temperatures. High temperature affects the quality of pepper.
The market price for Kampot pepper is stable. It’s $15 per kilogramme for black pepper, $25 for red pepper and $28 for white pepper.
KT: Can your association give a guarantee that there would be enough Kampot pepper for buyers?
Mr Lay: Of course we can. Previously, buyers were wary and they used to prepay the amount of pepper they want in order for us to guarantee delivery. This pre-payment is normally done between August and September, just before the harvest.
This year, however, we have not received any prepayments and this is a good sign. The buyers are confident that we will produce enough pepper, both for the domestic and export markets. The market for Kampot pepper seems to be getting bigger every year.
KT: Are there any plans to help other provinces get their pepper GI listed and find export markets? Your association seems to have a lot of experience, which can be shared with others.
Mr. Lay: So far, farmers in Memot district in Tboung Khmum province, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces, and Samlout district in Battambang province have approached our association for help.
Unfortunately, we told them that we could not provide assistance because our Kampot pepper is unique and of a special quality. Also it has a niche market – recognised by the EU, Thailand and Vietnam.
We dare not give advice to farmers growing pepper in other provinces for two reasons. Firstly, we don’t really know the true quality of their pepper. Secondly, we can’t be sure that the farmers are not mixing their processed pepper with other low-grade pepper. Also, the farmers who approached us did not have a detailed plan on how their pepper would be grown to satisfy the prerequisites for GI listing.
Also, we are not sure how to fix the price for pepper grown in other provinces. For Kampot pepper, the price is fixed for a three-year period. Since getting GI status, our price of black pepper increased from $4 per kg to $15 per kg. Red pepper previously did not have a market and with GI listing, it shot up from $6 per kg to $25 per kg. White pepper has increased from $8 per kg to $28 per kg.
There are standards that we have to follow closely, in order for us to command such prices.
KT: Do you worry about fake Kampot pepper in the markets?
Mr Lay: Yes, we do. But our association has taken action together with the authorities. In Siem Reap, for instance, we found that 90 percent of the pepper claiming to be from Kampot were actually fake. The authorities have now clamped down on the errant sellers. We also discovered fake Kampot pepper in Kep.
There is a law to protect GI products and sellers can be prosecuted if they’re selling fakes.
KT: Do you see the export market growing for Kampot pepper?
Mr Lay: Kampot pepper is mainly exported to the EU, which is our biggest market. We also export to the US, Japan, China, South Korea and Malaysia. We hope to export to more countries, and that’s the big plan.
About 70 percent of total production is for export and the remaining 30 percent is for the domestic and local tourist markets.

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