International Pepper Community calls for new measures to pep up pepper economy

3-day IPC meeting pitches for new technologies, better incentives pepper farmers


Mysuru, Nov: 23: Faced with an array of emerging challenges, an international conclave of  pepper community today called for initiating innovative measures to ramp up the pepper economy by setting up new targets for production and export and ensuring remunerative prices to the growers of the ‘King of Spices’.

The three-day 43rd annual session of International Pepper Community (IPC), which got underway here this morning, also made a strong pitch for rolling out a credible roadmap to improve quality, promote mechanization of pepper processing and make sustainable the cultivation of the spice that flavours kitchens across the globe and forms an important ingredient of traditional wellness systems.

Delivering the presidential address of the high-profile event at Hotel Radisson Blu, IPC Chairman Dr A. Jayathilak said pepper is the most important spice traded in the world, accounting for about 35 per cent of the total spice export earnings (US$ 2.30 billion 2014).

Noting that pepper production in India had been stagnating in the past one decade, Dr. Jayathilak, who is also Chairman of Spices Board, said the situation had now changed substantially with the launch of National Horticulture Mission during 2009-12.

“For sustaining the rate of production, realising remunerative prices is an important factor,” he said and appealed to the trading community to avoid speculative activity and ensure stable price for a sustainable and inclusive development of the pepper industry.

The IPC chairman said stringent quality standards in importing countries are “practically difficult” to achieve, particularly in the case of pesticides residues. “The number of farming community involved is in millions, and controlling the quality of the produce at various levels is not easy. Hence, it will be the prime responsibility of the policymakers to ensure the quality of the produce and premium price to the farming community,” he added.

Later addressing mediapersons, Dr. Jayathilak said Karnataka has emerged as the leading producer of pepper because of its rising prices and fluctuating coffee prices, which has incentivized more farmers to take up the cultivation of the spice.   

Set up in 1972 by the UNESCAP, Jakarta-headquartered IPC is an inter-governmental body of major pepper producing countries with a mandate to promote, co-ordinate and harmonize all activities relating to the pepper economy.  

Earlier in his introductory remarks, IPC Executive Director Mr. W.D.L Gunarathne said pepper producers are currently enjoying the best times with a record production of the spice this year, but they should be ready to face new challenges in the year ahead.

“The year 2016 may be quantitatively slightly high,” he said, making a strong case for greater use of technology. “Technology is one area which needs to be paid adequate attention. But technologies also come with a high price and there is a need for it to be shared by member-countries of IPC,” he added.

Delivering the inaugural address, Mr. Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, Addl Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, said the global consumption of pepper, estimated at about 350,000 MT, is consistently growing, which has ensured good returns to farmers.

“However, a fair price to pepper farmers and competitiveness of pepper exports can be ensured only by increasing production and productivity as well as its consumption,” he observed.

The official said pepper prices have been buoyant during the last year and even touched an all-time high of US$ 9.90 per kg for black pepper and US$13.57 per kg for white pepper in November 2014, which existed at this level in October this year as well. The total export of pepper during 2014 was about 278,00 MT valued at US$2.30 billion.

“However, the future growth of pepper economy has to be addressed at different dimensions. Prices have to be stabilized through transparency, value additions have to be created and standardization of products for medicine and global consumption needs to be ensured,” he said. In this context, he noted that India has agreed to standardize the black pepper quality under CODEX. 

A significant development, he said, is the decision to set up a national-level Pepper Futures Exchange in the city of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam jointly by Government of India and Vietnam. “It will help transparency in prices of commodities, including pepper,” he pointed out.

In his keynote address, Mr. Pratap Simha, the MP from Mysore-Kodagu constituency, said Karnataka has emerged as the leading pepper producing state in India, accounting for over 50 per cent of production.

He urged the Central government to support pepper farmers through a special scheme for replanting and new planting in Coorg, Hassan and Chiickmagalore districts of the state and ensure higher rate of subsidy to incentivize more farmers to take up pepper cultivation. 

Also, the IPC award for the best pepper farmer was bagged by Karnataka for the last three years on the trot. “Some of the pepper farmers in Karnataka have achieved more than 10 MT productivity per hectare against the national average of around 300 kg per hectare,” he noted.

Around 250 delegates from IPC member countries --Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – are attending the convention to deliberate on the recent advancements in pepper cultivation, production, processing, marketing, quality improvement, research and development as well as trade promotion.

On the occasion, two publications – Production of Quality Pepper Planting Material and the Pepper Statistical Yearbook 2014 were released. Also, the ‘Best Farmer Award’ and “Certificates of Award to Exporter” for the Year 2014 were presented. B.M. Maheshkumar from Hassan district of Karnataka was among the three farmers who shared the award with his compatriots from Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

India currently holds the chair of IPC, which rotates among its full-time members every year. India, Indonesia and Malaysia are the founder members of IPC. The organisation has Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam as its full members and Papua New Guinea as an associate member. China, Cambodia, Madagascar, Micronesia are expected to join the community in near future.

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