According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Vietnam exported 118,000 tonnes of pepper and earned US$802 million, down 4.3 percent in volume but up 9.6 percent in value with the average export price in 2012 rising 15.8 percent to US$6,792 per tonne against the previous year. Of the total volume, the US accounted for 14.7 percent, Germany (10.1 percent) and United Arab Emirates (8.48 percent).
As the world’s largest supplier, Vietnam accounts for more than 50 percent of pepper transactions with more than 80 nations and territories, most notably with Singapore (up 105.68 percent), Kuwait (up 78.67 percent), Canada (up 76.9 percent), Australia (up 71.5 percent) and Italy (up 67.17 percent).
The Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA) said over the past six years, the pepper price has kept increasing from VND30,000 per kilo in 2009 to VND130,000 per kilo in 2012.
VPA President Do Ha Nam said the pepper cultivation covers only 2.5 percent of the total 2 million hectares reserved for the growing of five industrial plants in the country, but it accounts for over 8 percent of their total export earnings. Its economic value hovers around US$6,800 per hectare per year, 4 times higher than rubber, 8 times higher than cashew nuts, 2.6 times higher than coffee and 6 times higher than tea. Each hectare of pepper can make a profit of around VND200-250 million per year.
Vietnam harvested 125,000 tonnes of pepper in 2011and only 115,000 tonnes in 2012, showing a paradoxical result of larger cultivation acreage but lower output.
The MARD’s Cultivation Department said the pepper growing acreage increased from 7,000 hectares in 1995 to 50,000 ha in 2010, then from 55,400ha in 2011 to 57,500ha in 2012. The main reason was that farmers wanted to make a quick profit despite warnings about the spread of diseases from the growing of pepper with unclear origin.
A recent survey by the Cultivation Department shows that the average pepper yield dropped to just 2.4 tonnes per hectare in 2012 compared to 3-3.5 tonnes per hectare two years earlier. Dong Nai province, for instance, has expanded its pepper growing acreage to 1,000 hectares, but it has seen a decline in yield from 2 tonnes per hectare in 2011 to just 1.4 tonnes per hectare in 2012. In Ba Ria Vung Tau province, the average pepper yield is down by 0.14 tonne per hectare. Only in Binh Phuoc province, it is up from 2.85 tonnes to 3.07 tonnes per hectare.
According to the International Pepper Community (IPC), the global pepper output in 2013 will drop to 319,000 tonnes from 327,000 tonnes last year and Vietnam will reap only 100,000 tonnes compared to last year’s figure of 115,000 tonnes. To help the pepper sector maintain its sustainable growth and raise its export earnings to over US$1 billion in the coming years, the MARD should map out a long-term strategy for pepper production, establish an institute for research and technical upgrade, and invest in infrastructure facilities for pepper growers and other farmers in the target areas mentioned above.