Geographical indication status also likely delayed until September.
NINETY percent of this year's Kampot pepper harvest remains unsold due to the global financial crisis, but industry spokesmen say they expect overseas sales to recover when the province's renowned pepper gains geographical indication status - an international trademark under global trade regulations.
Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Association, said Tuesday that during this year's harvest - from January to May - just 0.8 tonnes out of 12 tonnes harvested have been purchased for export to the overseas market, compared with last year, when all 8 tonnes harvested were sold.
Therefore, while the harvest had increased 50 percent on last year, demand has dropped significantly.
He said that despite the drop in purchase orders, the association - which represents 111 Kampot pepper farmers and two pepper companies - had no plan to lower the price of the pepper.
"We have maintained pepper prices at US$10 per kilogram for the best quality white pepper, $8 for red pepper and $5 for black pepper," he said, adding that the pepper could be safely stored for many years thus reducing the problem of lacking demand.
Nguon Lay also predicted overseas sales and prices would increase when Kampot pepper gains geographic indication (GI) status under the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
The indication will register Kampot pepper as an international trademark - like French Champagne - preventing its use by other pepper producers.
We have maintained pepper prices at US$10 per kilogram for the best quality.
Unlike a traditional trademark, a geographic indication emphasises the origins of the product, as well as unique features, including its appearance, colour, flavour, physical or chemical characteristics, or specific production process, thereby distinguishing it as a brand on the international market.
"We hope that when Kampot pepper gains GI status, it will sell well on the international market and the prices will increase," he said.
Officials say they were hoping Kampot pepper to gain geographic indication status by the end of the month but that it was delayed until September because a draft law on the Protection of Geographical Indication Products had still to be passed - a condition under WTO regulations.
"Kampot pepper will possibly be registered as a geographical indication product in September ... because there's a lot still to be done," said Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.
Prak Sereyvath, managing director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), and a national consultant for the Protection of Geographical Indication Project at the Commerce Ministry, said that the GI draft law had yet to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly.
But he said a prakas, or edict, from Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, to be issued next month, would be used as a temporary replacement until the law is passed.
"When the prakas is issued, the Kampot Pepper Association will submit Kampot pepper for GI status, and it will probably be registered in September this year," he confirmed.