Exports of Cambodia’s famed Kampot pepper have doubled this year despite a poor start to the rainy season as demand soared due to an increase in the product’s publicity abroad.
Since the harvest season came to an end in May, a total of four tons of pepper have been exported to buyers in Europe, the US and Australia, said Jerome Benezech, director at FarmLink in Cambodia, a company that helps create commercial ties between pepper farmers in Kampot and international markets.
“The export market like the domestic market have grown in terms of volume,” said Mr Benezech.
The increase in exports, however, is unrelated to the government’s decision in April to officially register Kampot pepper with a geographical indicator, linking the product to its precise region of origin, he said.
Rather, documentaries on French television channel M6 in October last year as well as on the BBC in March have helped to generate a rise in demand for the product.
Mr Benezech said that a dry start to this year’s rainy season coupled with farmers’ limited growing capacity were the main reasons for this. Another factor affecting the industry’s growth is a lack of private investment.
“It’s a risky investment so you have to find the right people,” Mr Benezech said. “To find private investors is not easy.”
With Cambodia’s first export of Kampot pepper only coming in 2008, the pepper industry here is also in its infancy, making it difficult for investors to predict demand abroad, he added. There are also constraints regarding the lack of clear land titles on farmland.
Still, Ngoun Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Farmer’s Association, said total production among farmers would increase to about 14 tons this year up from 10 tons last year. He also said that pepper trees had increased from 19,000 at the end of 2009 to 27,000 today.
FarmLink is also consolidating new linkages with buyers in Australia and the US.
Despite growing demand abroad and fiercer domestic competition FarmLink has not decided to increase the price of pepper this year, with a kilogram still selling for $12.
“We try to create a stable market that is more predictable for everyone,” said Mr Benezech.