A newly-signed document marking a major step towards the export of Cambodian peppercorn to China has sparked optimism among agricultural players for meaningful improvements in the production and international sales of the dried fruit, as well as related investment.
The “Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of Peppercorns from Cambodia to China” was penned at the Peace Palace on November 9 by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina and General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) head Yu Jianhua at a ceremony presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Speaking to The Post on November 10, Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) president Nguon Lay hailed the signing of the protocol and the efforts on part of both governments leading up to it, saying that the document will lead to a major expansion in the international market for Cambodian peppercorn.
The KPPA is Cambodia’s apex industry body for Kampot pepper – the most highly-prized variety of the Kingdom – which is grown in the coastal province of the same name and is the sole cultivar protected under national geographical indication (GI).
Lay took the occasion to tout the quality of Kampot pepper, saying that the cultivar is recognised by a host of national and international organisations, and has been certified compliant with the phytosanitary requirements of many jurisdictions, where it is now exported.
“There is no real issue for Kampot pepper exports when it comes to phytosanitary requirements … all [consignments] are subject to quality control by the association and the agriculture ministry, [approval of which is] indicated by phytosanitary certificates.
“Cambodian pepper will have a wider market once China officially allows exports,” he enthused.
The per-kilogramme prices for this type of peppercorn have remained the same for several years, at $15 for black, $25 for red and $28 for white, according to Lay.
Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) director Chan Sophal commented that official direct exports to China would effectively end Cambodia’s reliance on Vietnam or other nearby countries for bringing its peppercorn to the Chinese market, a relationship he stressed has historically undermined profit margins for local traders.
“With this protocol signed, I hope that the official export of pepper to China happens soon,” he said, adding that Beijing spent “at least two or three years” studying the details of the document.
In the next step, costs associated with direct shipping from Cambodia to China will need to be analysed, Sophal said, adding that moving the product via Vietnam had been “easy” due to its shared border with China, and the expenses “acceptable”.
In August, Cambodian Pepper and Spices Federation (CPSF) president Mak Ny told The Post the total area under pepper cultivation is estimated at roughly 6,000ha nationwide, with significant quantities grown in 18 provinces, notably Tbong Khmum, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri.
The agriculture ministry reported that this year’s peppercorn exports reached 7,335.60 tonnes as of August 31, down 70.48 per cent year-on-year from a respectable 24.85 kilotonnes in January-August 2021 – with Vietnam buying the lion’s share at 6,467.89 tonnes or 88.17 per cent.
Other top destination markets for the eight-month period were Germany (778.2 tonnes), Taiwan (21 tonnes), France (16.78 tonnes), Malaysia (13.64 tonnes), Belgium (13.24 tonnes), the Czech Republic (9.44 tonnes), South Korea (4.35 tonnes), Japan (2.98 tonnes), Sweden (2.78 tonnes) and Canada (1.28 tonnes), the US, India, the UK, Lithuania, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia and the Netherlands each buying less than one tonne.