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Pepper industry needs brands, modernisation
13 | 09 | 2007
Viet Nam became largest pepper exporter on earth after shipping 50 per cent of the world’s total exported pepper last year. Industrialising cultivation and building trademarks will now be essential to hold the title.

The developing country, where most pepper is produced by small household operations, exported 118,000 tonnes of the spice worth US$195 million in 2006, according to experts at a workshop held late last week in Vung Tau City.

Dr. Mai Thanh Phung from the National Agriculture Extension Centre said Viet Nam’s suitable climate and landscape alongside low labour costs gave it an advantage over other pepper producers.

"Growing pepper trees does not require much land but it does require a lot of labour, which is a suitable match for our small fields and abundant labour," he said.

However, the domestic industry still needs to expand and achieve sustainable development in the face of some limitations.

"Vietnamese pepper trees are often attacked by epidemics and produce low yields due to unprofessional planting," said Phung. "These products have no common quality standards in place as they are all produced by unregulated small-farming households."

Viet Nam needs to build a standard process for pepper trees, from growing, harvesting, processing to exporting, so as to minimise risks and ensure stable productivity and quality, according to Phung.

Nguyen Ho Nam, Chairman of the Viet Nam Pepper Association, said that the quality of Vietnamese pepper varied too greatly because production was spread so thinly over so many disconnected farms.

"Worse still, pepper collection and post-harvest preservation are not implemented well at all," he said. "We can change this but it will require us to join forces with one another to create a stable market with good quality products."

He suggested that localities support scientists in creating standard pepper production technology suitable to their local natural and social conditions, and then disseminate this model to pepper farmers through training courses.

He also stressed the need for the Vietnamese pepper industry to build brand names for Vietnamese pepper products.

"If we want to promote pepper exports as the country integrates into the global economy, we must build brand names and create prestige for our customers," Nam said. "When our pepper products have a name, foreign consumers will remember and will come directly to us to buy."

"At present, most Vietnamese pepper products are still exported through go-betweens so Vietnamese exporters suffer much lower profits than if they exported directly," he said.

Success story

Nam said that one place the country can look to for a good pepper production model is Chu Se District in the Central Highland province of Gia Lai.

All pepper households there apply a given production process under guidelines set by technicians. Many pepper processing factories have also been built in the district.

As well, local and state agriculture extension agencies have helped farmers to build and promote the Chu Se Pepper Trademark.

As a result, Chu Se pepper products always sell at the highest prices in the country. Many foreign businessmen around the world know Chu Se Pepper and have visited Chu Se District. Some have signed high-valued import contracts directly with local farmers.

"If we can multiply the Chu Se model throughout the country we will have a large volume of high-quality pepper and a stable market that meets international trading partners’ demands," Nam said.

A new plan

Nam said that standard technology models could be applied widely and effectively only when localities allocate specialised pepper cultivation areas. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Pepper Development Scheme aims to do just that.

Under the plan, Viet Nam’s 50,100 hectares of pepper trees will be expanded by an additional 1,900 ha.

The plan aims to boost pepper export value to US$240 million by 2010 and US$280 million by 2020.

The Government will initiate policies to encourage agricultural banks to give medium and long-term loans with soft interests to pepper farmers in order to encourage them to apply modern technology.

The Viet Nam Pepper Association and various agricultural agencies will be responsible for providing updated techniques and market information to farmers, building and preserving trade marks, and implementing trade promotion activities.

Developing a highly-skilled workforce for the pepper industry, organising training courses for farmers and developing infrastructure facilities, particularly irrigation systems, are essential parts of the programme.

Source: Vietnam News
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