Producers of Kampot pepper have positioned the spice as a high-end product and are working to add value to the internationally recognised brand by ensuring that only the highest quality peppercorns make it to market.
Ngoun Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA), said yesterday that the 241 families represented by his organisation produced around 60 tonnes during the 2015 season, but only 58 tonnes was delivered to the market.
“We sell only the finest quality pepper to the market to protect the quality brand of our Kampot pepper,” he said.
Kampot pepper gained Geographic Indicator (GI) status in 2010, a brand certification used to identify the origin and associated characteristics of a product, such as “Champagne” or “Parmesan cheese.” Based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) guidelines, GI strictly regulates every aspect of a product’s properties to certify its high quality and regional distinctiveness.
As part of its GI designation, French certification body Ecocert verifies that the final product originates from the defined geographical area in southern Cambodia and is produced without chemical fertiliser using traditional pesticide-free growing methods.
Studies show the certification resonates with health-conscious Western consumers, and fetches higher prices in international markets.
A report released by UNCTAD this week showed that “prices for Kampot pepper had increased significantly after producers gained access to wider and more diversified markets as a result of GI certification”.
In one case study, Kampot pepper producer Starling Farm saw the farmgate price of its product increase from $5 per kilogram before GI status in 2010 to about $18 in 2014.
Duong Dara, the company’s sales manager, told the Post that consumers recognised the high quality of the GI label and were prepared to pay a premium.
“Our customers feel confident in buying Kampot pepper from our shop, even it’s more expensive than other brands,” he said. “We have GI certification and other certifications as well to prove the high quality of the pepper and build consumer trust.”
Hay Ly Eang, founder of specialty food producer Confirel, said high demand for the Kampot pepper brand, and the high prices it fetches, has made it a tempting target for imitators. While genuine producers cannot meet the demand, inferior imitations passed off as genuine undermine the value of the product.
“They have no impact on our production, as the market demands even more,” he said. “But they pollute the name of the pepper and will cause consumers to lose confidence.”
Certification ensures quality and commands higher prices in international markets, said Ly Eang, whose Kampot pepper plantation this week became the first to be certified by Ecocert as compliant with European, American and Japanese standards.
“The certification is evidence of the good quality of pepper and is recognised in the international market,” he said. “Consumers now care more about quality than price.”
He said Confirel, which sells Kampot pepper under its Kirum brand, is looking to produce new gourmet food products such as teas and sauces that incorporate the prized pepper.
“We are trying to innovate the pepper by using it in other products,” he said. “It will give more value to the pepper than just selling the peppercorns.”