This year’s weather has proven too hot for the Kingdom’s famous Kampot pepper, as yields of the spice dropped for the first time since 2008.
Some 22 tonnes of pepper were harvested this year between January and May, short of the 27 tonnes predicted for this season, and a tonne lower than last year’s yield, said Nguon Lay, director of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA).
This is the first drop in output, he said, since pepper growers in the region formed the KPPA in October 2008, which today has a combined pepper farmland of 41 hectares and 102,500 trees.
The decreased yield is a result of the recent hot and dry spell, which damaged some of the yield, he said. “If there are drops in crops, we are worried about the reputation of the pepper as well.”
Similarly, Him Anna, director of Bright Starling Holdings Co, which maintains a pepper plantation, said: “The problem stemmed from [the lack of] water. It was dry around there in March, when the pepper bears crops.”
Her 2.5-hectare plantation in Kampot was expected to produce up to six tonnes this year, but eventually produced less than four tonnes, she said.
However, the quality of pepper had remained unaffected, she insisted, adding that to ensure the same situation does not repeat next year, she would drill wells to pump water from underground.
Despite the lower output, said Lay, KPPA was still able to meet the demand from buyers, because the contracts signed involved an output lower than what has been produced. Black pepper corns make up about 60 to 70 per cent of KPPA’s output each year, with the rest coming from red and white pepper.
Kampot pepper, which is grown in certain districts in Kampot and Kep, received its protected geographical indication (GI) status from the Cambodian government in April 2010, the first local produce to attain this recognition.
GI is an internationally accepted standard that protects the intellectual property rights of a product from a specific geographical region, such as Champagne from France.
In January, Lay told the Post that that prices for pepper had risen, partly in response to the strong market demand. Black pepper cost $11 per kilogram this year, compared to $8 last year, while white pepper cost $18, up from $15.
Lay also reportedly said that by 2015, KPPA’s output would reach 50 tonnes, through pepper trees that have been newly planted.