The kingdom’s pepper production is predicted to increase by about 70 percent, from 11,800 tonnes in 2016 to 20,000 tonnes by the end of the year, according to latest figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The increase in pepper production is due to the efforts of the ministry in promoting its cultivation due to improving market prices, said Hean Vanhan, director-general of the ministry’s general directorate of agriculture.
“Farmers are switching over from planting cassava and rubber to growing pepper because the price of pepper seems to be getting better each year,” added Mr Vanhan.
According to ministry figures around 5,000 hectares have been cultivated with pepper this year.
Pepper is planted in 19 provinces throughout the country and Tbong Khmom province, the country’s eastern province that shares a common border with Vietnam, contributes to about 75 percent of total production.
According to insiders most of Cambodia’s black pepper is exported to Vietnam, the world’s biggest pepper producing country, through middlemen who often do not offer pepper growers actual market prices.
Pepper growers are now urging the government to set up processing factories in the country, so that they can bypass the Vietnamese middlemen, and export their products directly overseas.
“The government should encourage investors to put funds into pepper processing plants so that we wean ourselves away from the Vietnamese traders,” said Chan Sophal, a pepper farm owner in Preah Vihear province.
Mr Sophal said there needed to be inter-ministerial cooperation in promoting the pepper industry in the country.
“The Ministry of Agriculture by itself can’t do it. It has to work with other ministries like the Commerce Ministry, for instance, to promote the pepper trade.”
For Kampot pepper, however, with its coveted geographical indicator (GI) status from the European Union, the story is different.
Kampot Pepper Promotion Association president, Nguon Lay, said the market for Kampot pepper was continuing to grow.
Continued demand from European, US and East Asian markets meant that current prices for black pepper was $15 a kilogramme, $25 a kg for red pepper and $28 a kg for white pepper, he said.
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