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Vietnam's pepper export could set new record

Staff writer |
Vietnam's pepper export revenue could set a new record this year or at least equal to that of last year despite lower export volume, according to the Vietnam Pepper Association.

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Last year, 156,396 tonnes of pepper were exported worth US$1.2 billion, the highest figures so far in both volume and value, chairman Do Ha Nam told a review meeting in HCM City yesterday.

This represented a year-on-year increase of 16.38 per cent in volume and 34.72 per cent in value.

With a forecast of pepper to fall significantly over the last year due to unfavourable weather and disease, export volume would fall by about 10 per cent to 144,000 tonnes this year, he said.

In the first four months of the year, export volume dropped by 24 per cent over the same period last year, with only 57,000 tonnes of the spice exported, but export revenue went up by 2.1 per cent to reach $521 million.

According to the International Pepper Community, there had been little change in both supply and demand for the spice in the world market, which had kept prices high, he said.

Pepper export prices had increased from earlier this year, and were expected to be 20 per cent higher year-on-year, he said.

But despite its achievements, Vietnam's pepper industry faces a number of challenges, such as stunted plants and overexploited pepper farms with more disease and decreased productivity. Climate change has also affected farms.

High prices have persuaded farmers to expand cultivation without any planning, according to Nguyen Mai Oanh, the association's deputy chairwoman. The overuse of fertilisers of farmers has caused the plants to degenerate quickly and become vulnerable to disease.

"Pepper prices might remain high in the short term, but if production is not monitored carefully, there could be a glut," said Hoang Phuoc Binh, deputy chairman of the Chu Se Coffee Association.

With import markets like the US and EU demanding higher food safety requirements, the association and delegates at the meeting called on farmers, processors, and distributors to focus more on safety and hygiene norms.

Ha Huy Thang, general director of Petrolimex International Trading Joint Stock Company (Pitco), one of the leading companies in processing and exporting pepper, said the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should develop measures to control the planting of pepper without advance planning and impose strict punishment on those using banned plant-protection drugs.

In addition, the agricultural sector should offer more instruction to pepper farmers who follow good agricultural practices (GAP), he said.

"Improving value and quality is the target for Vietnam's pepper industry," Nam said.

To mitigate risks in production and trading, the association's members and farmers should produce more "clean" spices to satisfy demand of import markets, he said.

Vietnamese pepper products are exported to 97 countries and territories, with the US and Singapore, United Arab and India being the largest buyers.

The country has around 80,000ha under pepper, 52,000ha of which can now produce harvests, with an average output of 2.4 tonnes per ha.

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