The average price of exported peppercorn will surge to 20,000 riel ($5) per kilogramme next year, which should encourage the greater cultivation of the piquant spice, Cambodia Pepper and Spice Federation (CPSF) president Mak Ny told The Post on November 8.

Ny said peppercorn prices have been on the rise since a succession of farmers abandoned the crop following an earlier slump in rates.

As more farmers quit pepper, leading to a decline in stockpiles and other variables, independent traders found it harder to secure peppercorn to supply the market, which drove prices up, he said, adding that some of the growers have returned to replant and start anew.

“In terms of yields, more will be harvested than last year, seeing that the fruits have been better in some areas and are fetching higher prices, which has inspired many a farmer to start taking care of them, unlike before when prices fell and caused them to be less attentive,” he said.

He noted that the average per-kilogramme price ranges of the crop increased each year from 6,000-9,000 riel, to 9,000-12,000 riel, and 12,000-17,000 riel in 2019-2021, respectively.

“Once the price of pepper hit the 14,000-17,000 riel ballpark in recent times, farmers started to get extremely busy tending [to their crops]. Hence, I expect yields to be high and prices to ascend to 20,000 riel per kilogramme in 2022.

“But even if the rates slip a bit, it’d likely be brief, and prompt traders to buy in speculation” of price rises, Ny said.

Each year, the Kingdom exports nearly 20,000 tonnes of peppercorn, mostly to Vietnam – 70 to 80 per cent – and to Europe, and consumes about 1,000 tonnes domestically, he said.

Poun Penn, a pepper farmer on 5ha of land in Kampong Thom province, said the local going-rate for the fruit is at about 16,000 riel per kilogramme, up from 6,000 riel last year, which he said brought him and other farmers to the brink of giving up on the crop.

Although many growers called it quits, leaving their pepper vines to wither and die, Penn said he pushed himself to persevere, in the firm expectation that prices would rebound someday.

As the new year approaches, Penn stressed that the price of exported peppercorn would need to hover between 20,000 and 25,000 riel per kilogramme for farmers to live reasonably comfortably, and noted that even at the lower bound, income would hardly cover the cost of cultivation and maintenance.

“Labour and maintenance costs are also high. The price [of pepper] has not yet settled, let it just not go down again – hold steady.”