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Price woes for Kingdom’s non-GI pepper farmers

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A farmer holds fresh peppercorns after they were harvested from a plantation in Ratanakkiri province. Pha Lina

Price woes for Kingdom’s non-GI pepper farmers

While geographic indication (GI) status Kampot pepper is commanding a good market price, the rest of the Kingdom’s pepper farmers are experiencing falling rates due to the lack of a robust market, according to the Memot Pepper association.

The Ministry of Commerce, however, has pointed to fluctuations in the international market as a factor in the falling prices

Yin Sopha, executive director of the Dar-Memot Pepper Agricultural Development Cooperative in Tbong Khmum province, said on Wednesday that prices have fallen since harvesting began earlier this month and a kilogramgram is going for approximately 11,000 riel ($2.75). He claimed this is the lowest rate in recent memory.

Speaking from the Kingdom’s largest pepper producing region, Sopha claimed the decline had been ongoing since last year when a kilogram went for between 15,000 and 20,000 riel.

As of 2016, Cambodia had 5,000 hectares of pepper fields, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, which claimed the country’s pepper exports grew from 1,050 tonnes in 2016 to 2,698 tonnes in 2017.

Sopha professed fears many businesses would die if the price continues to fall, claiming farmers were deeply dependent on neighbouring nations when selling their crop.

“Pepper prices depend on brokers from Vietnam, we have no market in hand, and [we] have no choice but to sell without making any profit,” he said. “If the price continue like this, farms will collapse.”

Von Savourn, a pepper farmer who has 5 hectares of land in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district, thought the government should intervene to assist growers.

“The price keeps going down year by year, the government does nothing for us and does not care about us,” he said.

“We will give up pepper if there isn’t any intervention.”

Hean Vanhan, general director of the General Department of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the ministry helps to promote production and contract farming, but matters relating to the market are the duty of the Ministry of Commerce.

Long Kemvichet, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the current price drop is due to global market trends and is not a Cambodia-only issue.

“It is normal for the price to rise and fall based on demand and supply. The Ministry of Commerce is continuing to promote regular [non-GI] pepper as it is a product with great export potential,” he said, adding Cambodia has many international markets for pepper such as Vietnam, China and the EU.

While non-GI pepper is struggling amid price worries, prices of certified Kampot pepper continues to hold, Ngoun Lay, president of Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, said. The price of Kampot pepper is at $15 per kilogram for black pepper, $25 per kilogram for red pepper and $28 per kilogram for white pepper.

“Regular pepper always seems to face price dumping, as the supply is higher than demand,” Lay said. “We need to build trust in the market.”

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