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Phu Quoc pepper farmers enjoy spicy riches
19 | 06 | 2007
Pepper is the spice of life in the Phu Quoc Island District of southern Kien Giang Province where it is making farmers rich.

The standard of production is so high that not only has it become a nationally recognised trade mark, but is also one of the reasons why Viet Nam now supplies 60 per cent of the world’s pepper.

Experienced farmer Nguyen Van Luoc, originally from Binh Dinh central province, began planting pepper trees in Cua Duong Commune on the island in 1984.

Luoc’s plantation of about 3000 trees stretches along three ha of land by a local stream. He says the secret of his success is in how he manages the land.

Luoc also has fruit trees, such as mango and durian. He also intercrops pineapples among durian trees and on land left vacant after the pepper harvest.

Thanks to this innovation, each year he makes about VND20 million (US$1,200) from selling pineapple and VND30 million ($1,800) from durian.

And last year, record high prices for pepper made him the grand sum of VND223million ($14,000) from his crop.

"On the island, people with plenty of capital can invest in processing fish sauce or fishing, but most of the farmers earn their living from just growing pepper. As a precaution in case the price of pepper plummets, I decided to plant fruit trees so that I will always have a stable income," said Luoc.

He also said he wanted buyers to sign contracts with pepper farmers at the beginning of the harvest so that they would not be forced into cutting their prices.

Le Minh Phong, whose family has long been making ends meet by planting pepper vine, harvested 8 tonnes last year. This earned him nearly VND500 million.

Phong said when pepper was fetching high prices, there were about 2,000 households on the island planting the vine. But from 1999 to 2004, the price sharply decreased, forcing farmers to reduce the area under cultivation.

In 2004, determined to revitalise the industry, some pepper farmers in Cua Duong, Cua Can, Bai Thom, Duong To communes asked the Farmers Association and the People’s Committee of the province to let them establish the "Phu Quoc Pepper Association".

With their effort, in 2006, the association was established with Phong as president.

"Farmers on the island have started to plant pepper again because they were encouraged by the association – and the price of pepper rose again last year," said Phong.

"Viet Nam’s pepper exports now accounts for 60 per cent of the supply for world market, so they feel more confident about investing in the crop."

He added that the Phu Quoc Pepper Association also encouraged farmers to apply new technologies to ensure the crop was free of chemicals from fertilisers. The association will also ask relevant Government organisations to help farmers with trademark registration and to help develop stable markets.

Viet Nam News
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