Nearly 6,000 tonnes of pepper products were exported to international markets in the first 11 months of 2023, down by more than 30% compared to the same period in 2022, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The report highlights that the ongoing economic downturn has significantly impacted international trade flows, resulting in reduced orders for various goods, including peppercorn products. 

From January to November 2023, the country’s pepper exports totalled 5,805 tonnes, a decrease of 30.9% from 8,304 tonnes in 2022. The export volume for November 2023 was 197.17 tonnes.

Mak Ny, president of the Cambodian Pepper and Spice Federation (CPSF), said on December 6 that the decline in exports for the period was attributable to lower domestic and international prices. He said the situation had compelled farmers to opt against selling their products to traders.

Pepper is currently priced at about 12,000 riel ($3) per kg, whereas a few years ago it ranged between 16,000 and 17,000 riel. 

“The drop in … exports is due to lower prices, which prevents farmers from selling, while price factors have also prevented the area under pepper cultivation from growing in recent years,” he noted.

Ny anticipates a rise in prices in international markets for 2024, although hot weather could lead to lower yields. 

He noted that Vietnam remains a leading market for Cambodian pepper. 

The ministry previously indicated that peppercorn cultivation spans 18 provinces, including Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Tbong Khmum, Kratie and Kampot. 

Cambodia’s primary pepper markets comprise Vietnam, China, Germany, the US, Taiwan, France, Belgium, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Russia, the UK, India, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Australia and the Netherlands, as per the ministry.

The Chinese embassy announced on May 12, 2023, that Cambodian pepper had been approved for direct export to China after meeting all the necessary requirements. 

Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA), noted that Kampot pepper, a Geographical Indication (GI) product, has experienced normal exports for over 11 months, with about 100 tonnes being purchased annually by an exporting company. 

He said that as long as farmers can produce the product, the facilitator would buy the entirety. 

Lay highlighted that the quality of the Kampot variety is recognised both nationally and internationally, ensuring that the province’s pepper farmers never worry about the market. 

“Because [it] has many markets, exports have never been a problem, and the price is higher than pepper grown in other areas,” he added.

Lay also mentioned that the province’s variety is mainly exported to markets in Europe, the US, South Korea and Japan, unlike general pepper, which is primarily exported to Vietnam and China. 

The price of Kampot pepper has remained stable for four to five years, standing at $15,000 per tonne for black pepper, $25,000 per tonne for red and $28,000 per tonne for white, as per KPPA.