Pepper’s potential largely untapped

black pepper
black pepper

Ethiopia hopes that in the near future black pepper will become a major source of hard currency in the nation’s agricultural sector. The government plans to earn half a billion USD from spices by 2025. Pepper is seen as having a lot of potential and plans are to cultivate the spice jointly with other crops.

During the second Spice, Herbs and Aromatic Black Pepper investment forum and private sector platform meeting organized by the Ethiopia-Netherlands Trade for Agricultural Growth (ENTAG) and the Ethiopian Spice Aromatic and Herbs Growers and Producers Association experts said that the country has the potential to produce a huge amount of quality black pepper.

One advantage of black pepper is that it can be cultivated without complex technology.

It can be intercropped with other plants such as coffee, according to experts.

“It is a very young business in the country, pepper has been tested on state coffee farms in the past few decades and tabled for local markets,” Addisu Alemayehu, spice coordinator at ENTAG and researcher said.

Private farms began cultivating black pepper about four years ago once studies came out showing its potential.

“Over the past ten years spice production grew ten percent every year, when we just take black pepper into account it is actually dramatically high,” Addisu added.

According to the spice expert, the production of black pepper has grown by 1,800 percent since the cultivation was increased from 10 to 137 hectares over the past five years.

Locally the black pepper market is over USD 10 per kilogram. Ethiopian black pepper is worth up to USD 14 per kilogram on the export market. “It is over three times the amount of coffee and the yield is quite big when compared with coffee. Ethiopia producers, mainly coffee farms like Bebeka Coffee Farm are exporting the product to the European and Japanese markets,” he added.

Per hectare, farms have collected one ton of black pepper, scientists at Tepi Spice Research Center indicated that the country plans to harvest up to 28 quintals of black pepper per hectare.

Black pepper varieties produced in Ethiopia have registered high production quality, according experts.

Pioneer One Black Pepper, the highest quality variety in the world, is one of the products that Ethiopia has been able to grow.

Gertjan Becx, Project Manager of ENTAG, said that his organization is working on black pepper because there is a high demand for the spice.

“The production is very low right now so we want to expand it and improve the quality. The essence of Ethiopian black pepper is very good because of the geography but we need to improve the variety, processing and cleaning,” he said.

“We have all the ecological requirements suitable for black pepper in the country,” Addisu added.

He said that it has the potential to become one of the biggest export commodities in Ethiopia. “Ten big farms are cultivating the crop but our target is to expand it to other farms and small scale farmers’ land,” Becx said.

“Currently four big Dutch companies are looking for Ethiopian partners to invest in the sector,” he explained.

ENTAG is also working to create market linkage in Holland and other parts of Europe for Ethiopian black pepper.

The nation’s ten year spice strategy indicatesthat the spice production should increase 1,000 fold from the current production, which is less than USD 50 million export earnings.

Black pepper, once it is established the field can stay for up to 25 years, according to a researcher, who attended the forum.

“If we are trying to adopt supplementary irrigation like other countries we can have another 3.9 million hectares of land for the crop in addition to the 4.9 million hectares of land identified as highly suitable for black pepper production,” Addisu explained during his presentation.

Coffee growers were the main target during the forum because the crop can be cultivated jointly with coffee.

The production volume is very large compared with major black pepper producing countries. For instance the production capacity of India is about three quintals and Sri Lanka’s production report indicated that their yield is five quintals per hectare, but minimum production volume in Ethiopia is ten quintals per hectare. The spice will be the next major agricultural export product for the country.

Global pepper consumption is estimated at around 400,000 tons and has been increasing steadily. According to 2013 data, Vietnam has the major global black pepper market share by 34 percent followed by Indonesia at 19.

The black pepper market is directly influenced by the growing processed food industry. It is estimated that currently some 40 to 45 percent of global consumption takes place in Asia. With rising incomes, food patterns are changing and meat consumption is increasing and so is also the demand of spices and pepper in particular. Growth in the cosmetics industry is also directly influencing the pepper market.

Global market forecasts indicated that the price of black pepper will continue to grow.

A Future Market Insight’s ten year forecast assessment on the black pepper market from 2016-2026 indicated that the high demandfor pepper presents an attractive market opportunity for new vendors to enter the market. In the present market scenario, it is estimated that the new crop of black pepper accounts for nearly 30 to 35 percent of the market. The high demand is expected to increase the price of black pepper, thereby increasing the profit margin of the vendors in this market