Cambodia shipped out about 27,730.07 tonnes of peppercorn – both geographical indication- (GI) branded Kampot pepper and non-GI cultivars – in the first 11 months of 2021, up 456.53 per cent year-on-year, with Vietnam as the top buyer, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.

Vietnam bought up the most at 26,887 tonnes, followed by Germany (497 tonnes) and Thailand (180 tonnes). Smaller amounts were exported to more than 20 other countries and territories.

Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) president Nguon Lay told The Post on December 6 that sales of Kampot pepper were up this year, surpassing 104 tonnes as of November 30, versus 60-70 tonnes over the same period last year.

He said Kampot pepper exports were not particularly fazed by Covid, and that demand from markets such as the EU, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan remained normal.

“This year, farmers are elated that peppercorn yields are high and prices are still reasonable,” he said, noting that rates have not changed in years – $15 per kg of black pepper, $25 for red and $28 for white.

KPPA membership currently consists of 420 households and 42 companies, which manage 240ha of cultivation area, down from 460 households and 290ha in 2020, as more farmers abandon the crop.

Cambodian Pepper and Spices Federation (CPSF) president Mak Ny told The Post that the market for the non-GI varieties of the piquant fruit was seemingly better this year than in 2020 when Covid-19 hit, triggering severe crises that prompted some growers to give up on the crop, leading to reduced yields.

He said the price of non-GI peppercorn had risen to 15,000-16,000 riel ($3.70-3.90) per kg, from below 10,000 riel last year.

“Since pepper prices began to recover, some of the farmers who had given up on the crop are now little by little starting to replant,” Ny said.

According to him, the pepper cultivation area has decreased by 10-20 per cent from nearly 7,000ha in the pre-Covid era.

He noted that the bulk of locally-grown peppercorn is exported, with just five-to-seven per cent directed to domestic consumption.

Pepper is grown in 18 out of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, with Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Tbong Khmum and Kampot notable examples.

Kampot pepper enjoys GI status in the EU, and was registered internationally for protection in 32 countries last year, under the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.