Thursday, June 24, 2010

As Champagne is to France, Kampot pepper is to Cambodia

Ngnoun Lay holds pepper from a Kampot plantation. “When I stopped being a soldier I went to grow pepper like my ancestors,” says the president of the Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association, standing among ripening plants that tower over him on wooden poles. (Photo: Jared Ferrie)

The Cambodian government recently approved 'geographical indication' status for Kampot ground pepper, which Parisian chefs have called the best in the world.

June 23, 2010

By Jared Ferrie, Contributor
The Christian Science Monitor
Kampot, Cambodia

After he grew tired of fighting on the government side of Cambodia’s civil war and left the Army in 1993, Ngnoun Lay knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“When I stopped being a soldier I went to grow pepper like my ancestors,” says the president of the Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association, standing among ripening plants that tower over him on wooden poles.

Pepper has been cultivated in this region since at least the 13th century. But the spice’s heyday came much later, under French rule. Parisian chefs considered it the best in the world for its uniquely strong yet delicate aroma and its slightly sweet, eucalyptus taste. At the turn of the 20th century, Cambodia was exporting around 17.6 million lbs. a year, according to FarmLink, a company working with farmers to create a niche gourmet market in Europe.

Under the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79), the industry was completely destroyed and has yet to regain anything close to its former glory.

But farmers in Kampot recently got a boost when the Cambodian government approved geographical indication status for their product. (GI provides a guarantee of quality standards and assurance that a product comes from a particular region.)

Kampot has a microclimate ideal for growing pepper, as well as specialized cultivation techniques that have been passed down for generations, says Jerome Benezech, director of FarmLink. He says GI status will help to stop traders selling pepper from other regions under the Kampot brand. And it will mean higher profits for Kampot farmers, because GI appeals to consumers willing to pay a premium.

Mr. Benezech says Kampot may never produce the volume of pepper it did a century ago – the province exported only 6,600 lbs. last year – but he and the farmers hope for a steady rise “To increase the volume exported today to a couple of hundred tons would be very profitable for everybody, for the province and the farmers,” he says.


KhmerIsrael said...

Having the best black pepper ground in the world is nothing to sneeze about.

Anonymous said...

We must a carry a research on the History of peeper plantation in Kampot.

Maby the pepper was introduced in Kampot province by the Chinese immigrants from Hainan Island during the French time?

Until the year 1970´s the owner of pepper plantation was Hainan chinese-born Cambodians. They had created the district town of Kampong trach, larger than kampong Chhnang town, the only district town in Cambodia at that time that had with running water and electricity.

Those Hainan Chineses were very well integrated in the Cambodian society. Most of them got married with Khmer people. Even in the rural aereas of Kampot, Villagers spoke khmer and Chinese Hainan. Many of their descents became rich businessmen, doctors and high ranking governemnt officials...

Anonymous said...

china or even southern china was never a center of producing or even trading of spices in ancient time or recent history. so kompot pepper could not come from china. besides black and gray peppers thrive in a warmer climate such as near equator regions.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

my great grand parents were khmer. my grand parents n parents are khmer who are growing pepper now in kompot. what the fuck are you talking about up there. you are a piece of trash siem.

Anonymous said...

Them pickled peppers taste really good with noodles..

Anonymous said...

Huynh Xanh OWNED the country!

Anonymous said...

Kampot pepper is the best in the world.

KhmerPower said...

Kampot pepper is really delicious, specially in red!