SRI AMAN: Sarawak pepper remains a renowned brand worldwide with its quality ranked among the best of all pepper producing countries.
Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur, said Sarawak pepper has made Malaysians proud given the high quality of the commodity.
“Sarawak pepper is a world-renowned brand and we must keep this up by maintaining its high quality. Although we are the world’s fifth largest pepper producing country now, we must continue to expand our plantations and uphold the quality of our pepper so as to stay competitive in the global market,” he told a press conference after launching the ‘Let’s Plant Pepper’ Sarawak roadshow at the civic centre here yesterday.
However, Nasrun, conceded that the government had to tighten its regulations on imports as a means to maintain the quality of Sarawak pepper.
He said the current ‘loose regulations on importation’ had led to some incidences whereby Malaysians imported low quality pepper, processed and packaged it as Sarawak pepper.
“We must control the import of pepper. Even if we do need to import, we must not label the imported pepper as Sarawak pepper.”
Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) director-general Dr Harry Entebang said Malaysia did import pepper despite being the world’s top five producing country.
He said the country imported pepper worth RM139 million while the domestic consumption was estimated at about10,000 metric tonnes last year.
“We do not want them to import pepper and market it locally. The government needs to enhance the import perimeters and we are working on that.”
Harry said the board no longer published the prices of low quality pepper on its website, adding that MPB, the authority that liaised among parties including planters and buyers, ought to be the price regulator.
To a question, Nasrun said while Cambodia produced organic pepper, the level of pesticides found in Sarawak pepper was very low, making it ‘more or less organic’.
He added it mattered most that smallholders particularly those from Sarawak emphasised quality planting and quality processing.
Nasrun was also glad to note that the state government had pledged RM10 million this year to assist some 5,000 smallholders to plant 500 hectares of pepper in the state.