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Lack of rain may cause peppercorn output to plunge

A worker holds a pepper stem on a farm in Kampot province.
A worker holds a pepper stem on a farm in Kampot province. Will Baxter

Lack of rain may cause peppercorn output to plunge

Despite a wet rainy season, a shortage of rain in Kampot province is anticipated to diminish yields for the renowned pepper this upcoming harvest season, likely resulting in the inability of farmers to meet international market demand, according Nguon Lay, president of Kampot Pepper Promotion Association.

Typically by this time in October, Kampot peppercorn plants – scheduled to be harvested in January – are expected to begin developing small fruit that will eventually grow into full-size peppercorns. Currently, however, more than 90 percent of Kampot’s peppercorn plants remain fruitless, explained Lay.

He added that a lack of rain has caused peppercorn flowers to fall from their stalks rather than develop into mature peppercorns, resulting in little hope that the next harvest will amount to even 20 percent compared with the last season.

“The upcoming poor harvest will mean a shortage of both production and revenue because our supply is definitely going to be lower than last year,” he said, adding that Kampot pepper farmers had to plant and cultivate in accordance to strict geographical indicator regulations.

While Lay blames a lack of rain for the poor prediction on the next harvest season, peppercorn farmer Bith Samoeurn said it was a lack of proper irrigation that would dampen the crop. “We have no other option,” he said.

“We can only wait for the rain, because a shortage of rain causes us to face a lack of production and our profits depend on our yield.”

While last season his half-hectare farm yielded 800 kilograms of peppercorns, he said that he has little hope of cultivating anywhere close to that next year.

Across Cambodia, there has been more rain this season, but unfortunately, it has been lacking in the regions for prime peppercorn cultivation, according to Ngeth Sophal, a Kampong Trach district official for the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that farmers have been forced to try to save their crops by watering them manually.

“Weather forecasters tell us the rain would start this day or that day, but in the end, the rain isn’t enough for peppercorn cultivation. That is the problem,” said Sophal.

“Peppercorn crops require a lot of water.”

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