After a working visit to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) and the Pesta Lada 2017 event in Kuching, it is clear to me that despite various challenges the industry has experienced, rural pepper farmers from Sarawak still depend on this crop as their main source of income. A sought-after spice by the Japanese and Chinese, pepper (Piper Nigrum) has been regarded as one of the most prized and important commodities traded globally since time immemorial. Known as the king of spices, pepper has been associated with Malaysia across centuries; some of the earliest historical records suggest that pepper was first planted in Langkawi, Kedah, as early as 1619. In Sarawak, the spice quickly attracted the attention of most growers when Charles Brooke introduced some encouraging incentives to the local farmers.
To date,Sarawak remains the largest producer of pepper in the country and remains one of the most attractive commodities to be pursued despite its price volatility. Predominantly driven by smallholders that are mostly in the rural areas of Sarawak along with some parts in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, the cultivation area of pepper in Malaysia presently stands at 17,078ha. And 98% of the cultivation is in Sarawak with an estimated production of 31,000 metric tonnes. On the other hand, the world’s average demand for pepper is estimated to be around 426,900mt while the supply of the spice is around 376,300mt. At the moment, Vietnam accounts for 60% of global production. In Malaysia, the pepper industry has provided employment and income for about 67,000 farming families and households. Recognising the significant contribution of the pepper industry to the country’s economy, the Malaysian Government has placed further emphasis on the growth of the industry by forming the MPB under the purview of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities in 2007, to further strengthen the development of the industry which covers growing and production, extension, research and marketing. Currently, Malaysia is the world’s fifth largest exporter of pepper. In 2016, Malaysia exported 12,199mt of pepper worth RM490.2mil to Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.
Malaysian pepper is also shipped to various other locations in Europe, Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Malaysia has exported 7,261mt of pepper valued at RM210.7mil for the past eight months in 2017. Of this figure 1,777mt or 24% of the pepper export went to Japan, making it the top export destination. The pepper industry in Malaysia is a sector with potential for further growth due to the ever-growing global demand. In order to gain a competitive edge in the global market, the emphasis will be on the need to produce high-quality pepper. This will ensure that Malaysian pepper will not be limited to food-based products but also to non-food applications such as in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products that will provide new market opportunities for the industry. To accelerate this pursuit, the Government has approved an allocation of RM40.9mil to set up a Research and Development Complex sitting on a 7.3ha site in Semenggoh, Kuching to provide support to the sector. These new potential discoveries will strengthen the downstream activities and thus create another new platform for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors alike to exploit the new findings by turning them into innovative products.
This will attract new investments, create employments and add value. Going forward, I have discovered that the pepper industry in Malaysia is one with a very promising future as we are determined to be recognised as a leading supplier of premium pepper globally. Therefore, it is important for the industry to strengthen its position domestically and globally. As a leading agency, MPB should continue to pursue significant renewal, innovation and ventures from time to time. Last but not least, I hope many will journey with us. Together we can design the future of Sarawak Pepper and establish it as the best king of spices in the world. Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong is the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities. In this op-ed, he is sharing his hope and vision for the Malaysian pepper industry.
Sumber/Source : The Star online
Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/10/25/malaysia-aims-to-be-worlds-top-supplier-of-the-premium-king-of-spices/#jxiFU047Oo1ISFkR.99