Cambodia exported 3,834.67 tonnes of peppercorns in the first four months of 2022, marking an uptick of 79.03 per cent year-on-year as industry insiders fret about production numbers due to unseasonal rains with gusty winds.
Vietnam was the biggest buyer of Cambodian peppercorn in January-April, at 3,540.01 tonnes or 92.32 per cent, followed by Germany (255.60 tonnes), Malaysia (13.64 tonnes), Belgium (8.80 tonnes), France (8.61 tonnes), the Czech Republic (2.30 tonnes), Japan (2.01 tonnes), Canada (one tonne), the US (0.92 tonne), the UK (0.90 tonne), Sweden (0.49 tonne), Kazakhstan (0.29 tonne) and Australia (0.10 tonne), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.
Each year, the pepper fruit is harvested exclusively by hand between January and May, generally until the southwest monsoon brings the rainy season from mid-May.
Cambodian Pepper and Spices Federation (CPSF) president Mak Ny told The Post on May 22 that farmers in some areas had yet to complete their harvests, which have been plagued by a combination of heavy rains and labour shortages.
During the peak harvest season, the price of peppercorn dropped to an average of 13,000 riel ($3.20) per kilogramme, from 16,000 riel in January, he said, adding that output year-to-date has reached 60-70 per cent of the “more than 20,000 tonnes” typically recorded each year.
“Vietnam is a primary buyer of Cambodia’s. Exports to this country by and large pose no major headaches, save for the fact that Vietnam lowers the price for our pepper a bit seeing that our farmers are rushing to harvest.
“Today we are banding farmers together and looking for exporters to buy pepper directly from us, without having to rely on Vietnamese traders,” Ny said.
Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) president Nguon Lay said that Kampot pepper – the most highly-prized cultivar, grown in the namesake coastal province – is still being harvested, and that exports have just passed 10 per cent of the total annual amount of about 120 tonnes.
“We have exported just a little bit. The prices and yields of pepper this year are similar to 2021, although we’ve been less affected by the weather.
He said that although a fair share of small- and medium-scale farmers have signed contracts with exporters, large-scale growers have on the whole been far less lucky, explaining that buyers were seeking to make more “equitable” purchases.
So far, eight out of the more than 30 companies in the KPPA’s ranks have penned contracts within the association to export the hotly sought-after Kampot pepper, he added.
Confirel CEO Hay Ly Eang said that over the past four months, his company has shipped more than five tonnes of all three main types of Kampot pepper – white, red and black – to countries such as France, South Korea and Kazakhstan.
However, he commented, red Kampot pepper has fallen short of international demand, with more buyers placing orders than expected.
“Red pepper is expensive and in high demand from buyers. Overseas, this type of peppercorn costs between $25 and $40 per kilogramme. This year, there’s been quite a lot of rain, which may affect some pepper harvests because it is difficult to dry and loads of berries get blown off,” he said.
According to the KPPA president, the association’s prices of Kampot peppercorn have not changed in years – $15 per kilogramme of black pepper, $25 for red and $28 for white.