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Viet Nam's pepper industry plans to focus on improving quality to ensure long-term growth and satisfy demand from import markets, an official of the Viet Nam Pepper Association (VPA) has said.

Speaking at its annual meeting in HCM City yesterday, VPA's chairman Do Ha Nam said the industry had seen robust growth, but faced challenges related to climate change and stunted vines on farms.

High pepper prices in recent year have persuaded farmers to expand cultivation, even on unsuitable land without any planning, while the overuse of fertilizers has caused plants to degenerate quickly and be more vulnerable to disease.

"New free trade agreements will open opportunities for the industry to boost exports but there are challenges, especially in ensuring quality, hygiene and food safety," he said.

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

They also suggested speeding up the process of sustainable pepper production to improve quality and better protect the environment.

Tran Minh Tam, director of the EaKtur Coffee Company, said his company was trying to implement a sustainable process for pepper production.

However, this kind of cultivation requires high investment costs, but the price is only VND 3,000 higher than pepper grown under typical methods. As a result, farmers do not have a strong interest in using the sustainable method.

He suggested that VPA develop measures to increase purchase prices of certified sustainable pepper and raise awareness among farmers about production following safety standards.

Dang Ba Dan, director of the Pepper Research and Development Centre, suggested that the industry use organic fertilizers and disease-resistant seedlings for their pepper farms

Delegates suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development quickly review the list of pesticides and ban the use of chemicals containing active elements such as Carbendazim, Permethrin, Methalaxyl and others, which foreign markets have banned from using in pepper production.

Bui Chi Buu, former director of the Southern Institute for Agricultural Science and Technology, said pepper exporters should develop close links with farmers to better control quality.

Strong growth

Viet Nam's pepper exports hit a record US$1.27 billion last year, with 133,569 tonnes of the spice exported, a drop of 12 per cent in volume but a rise of 5.4 per cent in value over 2014, Nam said.

In the first four months of the year, exports were worth $561.68 million, 9.36 per cent higher year-on-year, he said, adding that Viet Nam's pepper exports were expected to reach 150,000 tonnes this year.

By the end of last year, the country had 85,000 ha under pepper, yielding 130,000 tonnes of pepper.

Viet Nam accounted for 32 per cent of the world's total pepper output and held more than 56 per cent of world market share.

Vietnamese pepper products are exported to 100 countries and territories, with Asia, Europe and the US being the biggest markets.

According to the latest report of the International Pepper Community, in recent years global demand for the spice increased at an average rate of 3.5 per cent per year or 10,000-12,000 a year.

Global consumption could be 450,000 tonnes per year in the near future, it said.

The impact of unfavorable weather such as El Nido, and typhoons in main producing countries such as Indonesia, Brazil, India and Viet Nam, will shrink output, so demand is expected to be higher than supply despite the increase in cultivation areas in many countries, according to IPC. — VNS

(Bizhub)