Globally, 2015 saw black pepper production at 325,033 MT. Currently, Vietnam is the leading producer of black and white pepper with 155,000 MT of pepper produced in 2015. In the same year, India produced 58,251 MT, of which 10,000 MT was exported. Nonetheless, India still stands as the largest consumer among the pepper producing countries at 74,000 MT annually.
Black Pepper Market Trends
Vietnam, India, Brazil and Malaysia are the leading producers of black pepper. The utilization of large scale production using mono-cropping is helping Vietnam growers to offer world’s lowest price tags while still maintaining quality.
In terms of export, Vietnam leads the market globally. USA, UK and Canada continue to be the largest importers of black pepper. Thus, with a market share of approximately 50%, Vietnam has been able to dominate the global market.
The pepper cultivated area in India is declining at a rate of 25% annually. States from Northeast India are doing fairly well in adopting pepper production in most if not all of the hilly terrains of the regions.
In 2015, Kerala dominated the pepper production in India with an astounding 20,000 MT of black pepper from 84,065 hectares of cultivated area. In the same year, Meghalaya produced 681 MT of black pepper from 967 hectares. This amounts to 0.7 MT/ha as compared to Kerala’s 0.2 MT/ha.
Scope for Northeast
Pepper grows well in tropical areas and can grow at temperatures between 10°C to 40°C. It grows best on well-drained nutrient rich soil but can even grow in clay, red and sandy loams. The recommended spacing for planting black pepper is 3.0 x 3.0 metres for flat land which can accommodate 1,100 plants per hectare. The spacing can be reduced in the case of slopes, to 3.0 x 2.0 metres which can then accommodate 1,400 plants per hectare. Since most of the Northeast India farmers farm in the hilly terrains, the farmers can reduce the spacing between each plant, hence increasing production.
The three major producers of black pepper in the Northeast are listed below:
In 2014, Nagaland also started pepper cultivation but the yield till date is negligible. Other Northeastern states are yet to adopt black pepper in their agricultural cycle.
Factors Affecting Pepper Production
- Low yield varieties
- Soil fertility depletion
- Unexpected climate change
- Unproductive vines resulting from low maintenance
What to Expect From Black Pepper Farming?
Black pepper could be the farmers’ savior when cultivated along with other commercial crops such as coffee, areca-nut etc. With the already available market, black pepper could live up to its name as “black gold” and provide a profitable living for the farmers of Northeast India.
The Spices Board India has already taken the initiative to provide pepper threshing equipment for separating the berries from spikes to marginal farmers, women farmers and beneficiaries in Northeast India states. These threshers have the capacity to thresh 300 kg per hour.
The spices board will bear up to 50 % cost of the equipment to a maximum of ₹150,001 as a subsidy. There is no scarcity of governmental schemes for the farmers, and now all we need is to educate the farmers on the availability of such schemes and subsidies. Do you think black pepper cultivation will benefit the farmers?