An exporter has asked farmers to focus on producing high-quality pepper by following strict standards to strengthen demand for their products abroad.
Hay Ly Eang, chairman of Confirel, told the Khmer Times last week that Kampot pepper continues to sell well internationally, particularly in Europe.
However, he said farmers must focus more on quality to keep sales strong.
“Most farmers just care about price. They forget quality. Quality is what they must prioritise,” Mr Ly Eang said.
Kampot pepper was awarded geographical indication status in the EU in 2015, a distinction that guarantees a certain price for the commodity in international markets.
According to the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, 50 percent of Kampot pepper is exported to the EU, while 30 percent is consumed internally. The rest is exported to the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
Mr Ly Eang explained that only high-quality pepper sells well in the EU. Pepper grown following organic methods sell particularly well, he pointed out.
Confirel, which sells Kampot pepper under its Kirum brand, exported about 14 tonnes of Kampot pepper abroad this year, mostly to the EU, according to Mr Ly Eang.
The company buys some of its pepper from farmers but also grows the spicey crop.
KPPA president Ngoun Lay said many farmers are finding it difficult to sell their harvest. He said a lack of demand is driving a large number of Kampot pepper farmers to quit the crop.
He estimated that 20 to 25 percent of small-scale farmers (those farming less than 3,000 square meters of land) have abandoned the crop after this year’s harvest season.
“There are some challenges that are forcing those farmers to quit planting pepper,” he said, citing as one of those challenges the current oversupply resulting from the fact that buyers are beginning to cultivate the crop.
“Orders from buyers have decreased substantially in the last few years because these buyers are now also planting pepper,” he said, noting that buyers began growing pepper only two years ago.
“Before a buyer would order 10 to 20 tonnes of pepper, but now they only need 2 to 10 tonnes because they are also growing the pepper themselves. This is hurting farmers,” he said.
He noted that the crop is now grown in 290 hectares of land in Kampot province by 445 farmers. Together, those farmers produce a total of 100 tonnes a year on average, but buyers are demanding only about 70 tonnes a year.
A kilogramme of Kampot black pepper fetches $15, while red pepper and white pepper sell for $25 and $28 per kilogramme, respectively. However, some farmers have had to sell their black pepper for $13 a kilogramme, red pepper for $22 and white pepper for $26, Mr Lay noted.
Low-quality pepper used to fetch $10 per kilogramme, but now, due to oversupply, some farmers are selling it to Vietnamese merchants for as low as $2 per kilogramme, he added.