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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pepper industry needs to reform, analysts say

Pepper industry needs to reform, analysts say

091209_07
A farmer displays harvested peppercorns in Kampot province. Analaysts say that Cambodia’s pepper industry remains disorganised.

More help could be required as farmers await GI certification

We would like government representation, not just the private sector.

AS delays continue to plague attempts to give pepper growers in Kampot province intellectual property protection, sources within the sector have criticised the government for its failure to provide effective direction.

According to one expert previously involved in attempts to launch a viable pepper export venture, lack of leadership is a major stumbling block to introducing the measures necessary for making Cambodia’s relatively small output of black pepper globally competitive.

“The problem is there is no grading here, and no actual processing plants,” the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If you have correct quality control, you can access the EU or Japanese markets, where they have very high standards.”

For the farmers who grow Kampot pepper and the associations supporting them, these problems were supposed to have been eradicated by year’s end with the awarding of the geographic indicator shared by products such as Champagne.

Jean-Marie Brun of Groupe de Recherche et d’Echanges Technologiques (GRET), an NGO that supports Kampot farmers, said certification is being held up by requests for supporting documents by the Ministry of Commerce. He added that he hopes the repeatedly delayed process will be completed next month.

For the rest of the sector, Cambodia’s shortcomings in pepper production and marketing mirror those identified in a 2005 USAID report that suggested a focus on developing a specific market chain for pepper, “from the quality and sustainability of raw materials to meeting buyer specifications and customer satisfaction”.

“Pepper producers [in 2005 were] mainly responding to informal signals from outside buyers. They have some basic knowledge of production but know very little of the global market structure,” said the report, which sources in the industry said still rings true.

The Kingdom’s pepper – with production centred in Kampong Cham province – still must be shipped to Vietnam for processing, said Jerome Benezech, director of Farmlink, because outside Kampot there are no domestic processing facilities.

He gave a “very rough estimation” of 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes produced annually in Cambodia, a tiny fraction of total global production of some 281,974 tonnes, according to the International Pepper Community (IPC).

Cambodia’s industry remains largely structured on an ad hoc basis. The government has not joined the IPC, which consists of major producers of the product, despite an invitation extended “four or five years ago”, Moh Taufiq, the IPC’s head of statistics, told the Post Tuesday from Jakarta, where the organisation is based.

“We would like [Cambodian] government representation, not just the private sector,” he added.

Officials from the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment on its involvement in the industry Tuesday.

The 2005 USAID report noted that growing in Vietnam’s shadow slowed development of an independent industry in the Kingdom, due to cost incentives to produce the spice domestically and process it at established plants elsewhere.

Vietnam has become the world’s largest exporter of pepper – it sent abroad some 120,000 tonnes in the first 10 months of the year, according to figures released by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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