16:55 | 18/05/2015 Trade
Some of the world's best spices are coming from Vietnam these days and the country’s peppers with their pleasant lemony/citrus aroma and taste are one of the country’s more famed and recognizable products.
But these pungent palate pleasers are under threat from shrinking harvests and tough competition from foreign imports, Do Ha Nam, chairman of the Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA) has revealed.
Nam made the comments at a seminar convened in HCM City to assess the performance of the domestic pepper industry over the past several years and prospects future sustainability.
Though pepper exports for 2014 were at record highs of 156,396 tonnes, generating US$1.2 billion of revenue, the fruit’s quality has been steadily deteriorating and pepper trees are now highly susceptible to a variety of diseases.
The temperate climate of Vietnam combined with its nutrient rich soil has made its peppers some of the finest in the world, but few like to talk about the threat to sustainability of the annual harvest as a result of the overuse of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, Nam said.
Pepper exports for 2015 are now forecast to drop by 10% to 144,000 tonnes principally due to the abusive use of chemicals giving rise to a variety of industry crippling diseases.
He noted that in the first four months of the year, the volume of exports actually plummeted 24% on year to 57,000 tonnes, though the decline was offset by an increase in the sales price resulting in an overall uptick in value of 2.1% to $521 million.
Nguyen Mai Oanh, deputy chairwoman of the VPA, in turn said high prices and profits over recent years have led many in the industry to throw caution to the wind and expanded production without proper regard for quality concerns and long-term planning.
The overuse of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides by farmers has caused the pepper trees to degenerate and as a result they have become more susceptible to disease, Oanh said.
The VPA also suggested government ministries focus on putting in place production models in compliance with good agricultural practices (GAP) standards to control pests and diseases negatively affecting pepper plant production.
Ha Huy Thang, Petrolimex International Trading Joint Stock Company (Pitco) General Director echoed Oanh and Nam’s concerns and suggested the government impose strict punishment for those abusing pesticides and herbicides.
In addition, the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the VPA should offer more guidance to pepper farmers for adhering to GAP and ensuring that value and quality are the competitiveness targets for the industry, Thang said.
With import markets like the US and EU demanding higher food safety requirements, there was general consensus among those in attendance that farmers, processors, and distributors need to step up their game and concentrate on improving safety and hygiene.
Vietnam pepper products are exported to 97 countries around the globe, with the US and Singapore, United Arab and India making up the major share of the market.
The Southeast Asian nation has roughly 80,000ha under pepper cultivation, 52,000ha of which can now produce harvests, with an average output of 2.4 tonnes per ha.Source VOV News