The Kurata Pepper C will partner with Yasuma Co Ltd in a plan to grow Cambodian pepper for export to the lucrative Japanese market
YASUMA Co Ltd, one of Japan's leading spice producers, is set to invest US$500,000 in Phnom Penh-based Kurata Pepper Co in a bid to meet growing demand in Japanese markets.
Kurata Hironobu, head of Kurata Pepper - the sole exporter of Cambodian pepper to Japan - said his company will serve as a local partner to Yasuma by investing in new farmland to bolster production of Kurata's increasingly popular pepper.
"Yasuma will invest $500,000 to grow pepper for export to Japan," Kurata told the Post on Monday.
"The investment is expected to materialise in July."
He said Yasuma chose to invest on the production side because it was cheaper than buying directly from growers.
"Now we are looking for Cambodian partners who have farmland of between 50 and 100 hectares, possibly in Koh Kong or Sihanouk [provinces] to collaborate in the planting of pepper," Kurata said.
"We expect to export about 200 to 300 tonnes of pepper each year to Japan, starting in 2013," he said.
Kurata currently grows pepper on six hectares of land in Koh Kong, where the company provides a half-tonne of pepper each year in export to Japan.
Kurata Pepper was founded in 1997 by Kurata as a partnership with a farmer in Koh Kong province.
The company exports its pepper to Japan, France and Denmark.
It is also available in limited locations in Cambodia that cater for the tourist market.
Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Monday that the investment provided a good opportunity to further develop Cambodia's pepper production but said the geographical location of Kurata Pepper's plantation could affect its ability to market their products.
"The investment is good, but [Kurata's] pepper will not benefit from designation as a GI [geographical indication] product unless the pepper is grown in Kampot province," he said, referring to the brand that designates Cambodia's highest-rated pepper.
WE EXPECT TO EXPORT ABOUT 200 TO 300 TONNES OF PEPPER EACH YEAR TO JAPAN.
Kurata said the geographical branding for his pepper was not a top priority for the company.
"We do not care about whether our pepper gets GI status from Koh Kong or Kampot because our target market is Japan," Kurata said.
"The Japanese ... do not care about whether the pepper comes from Kampot or Koh Kong.
"They care about its quality," he added.
Cambodia currently produces nearly 200 tonnes of pepper annually, mainly in Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong, Sihanouk and Kampong Cham provinces, said Prak Sereyvath, executive director of the Cambodia Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture.