Yields of Kampot pepper, which was awarded geographical indication (GI) status in 2016, are projected to increase in the upcoming harvest season despite forecasts of heavy drought, the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) said on Sunday.
Association president Ngoun Lay said that even after the government announced predictions of drought for this year, the next harvest season is expected to produce better yields.
“Our next harvesting season will reach 90 tonnes of Kampot pepper as farmers are more experienced with drought conditions and have a better understanding of water management."
“Our farmers now understand the situation well. They know how to reserve water for the dry season, as they have been experiencing drought since 2015,” he said.
Focus on red pepper
Lay said the KPPA harvested 69 tonnes last year, of which 53 tonnes were exported.
He said that this year, farmers would harvest from the beginning of March until the end of June, with an increased emphasis on producing red pepper.
“It is not much of a challenge currently for medium-sized farms as our farmers are able to control their production lines. But it is harder for investors in large farms as they have high production costs,” he said.
Kampot pepper’s GI area stood at 250ha in Kampot and Kep provinces in October last year, according to the KPPA. Within that area, 200ha had mature pepper plants that could be harvested.
“This season, we will focus on producing red pepper to meet market demand,” Lay said.
Kampot pepper’s major markets are the EU, the US, Japan and Canada. However, the KPPA is looking to many new destinations to expand the market further, such as South Korea, Hong Kong and China.
The KPPA has 457 member farmers and the organisation has partnered with 35 private companies to export its product to international markets.
The price of Kampot pepper remains at $15 per kg for black pepper, $25 for red pepper and $28 for white pepper.
One KPPA member, Pok Ly, who has an almost 2ha pepper farm with some 4,000 trees, expects to harvest three tonnes this year as the farm has received adequate water. Ly yielded two tonnes of pepper last year.
“It is not a concern for me as we have been reserving enough water to supply my trees until July."
“Since we already have experience of drought, most farmers have prepared by storing water – for example by digging wells and ponds and constructing water tanks,” he said.