Demand for Kampot pepper, the first Cambodian product to receive Geographical Indication (GI) status, is outpacing current supply even as areas of cultivation are expanding.
Industry experts say the fast-growing demand is a result of the pepper’s newly earned GI label, which attests to its quality and uniqueness.
Representatives of the Kampot Pepper Association believe that as demand continues to rise, farmers’ living conditions will improve.
Ngoung Lay, a member of one of the 152 pepper-growing families that form the Kampot Pepper Association, said that with its unique flavour and smell, Kampot pepper is a relatively rare product and considered one of the best spices on the market.
“We have been trying to expand our cultivated area every year, but still it is not [satisfying] the market’s demand,” Lay told the Post. “Right now, we already signed contracts with export companies on quantity and price, and we do not have enough pepper to sell to them.”
With the right soil and ideal weather conditions, farmers in six districts of Kampot province can produce black, red and white pepper, each with a distinct taste.
According to Lay, pepper farms increased from 20 hectares in 2012 to 41 hectares in 2013. Moreover, crop yields have increased from 23 tonnes in the whole of 2012 to 27 tonnes in just the first three months of this year.
Him Anna, CEO of Bright Starling Holding, a Kampot pepper exporting company, said the demand for Kampot pepper has enjoyed steady growth.
“In the first few years, I only sold a few hundred kilos, but now this has increased to up to five tonnes,” she said, adding that the export volume would be even higher if there was sufficient supply. “Along with rising orders from abroad, it’s a sure sign that Kampot pepper is becoming an essential crop to improve farmers’ livelihoods.”
Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association and owner of several restaurants in Phnom Penh, said he prefers the natural flavour of fresh Kampot pepper and adds it to fish and scallop dishes as well as marinated beef salads.
“Overseas customers really love it” he said. “Often they take the stalk and bite off the peppercorns because they don’t have that opportunity at home.”
Responding to the rising demand for Kampot pepper in the market, Lay said his association is trying to expand the production to seize the benefits from this popular product.
“We still have many potential cultivated areas so we will enlarge our supplying capacity,” he said.