Pepper gardens in Kien Giang (Photo: VNA)

Kien Giang (VNA) – The island district of Phu Quoc in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has actively promoted pepper-based ecotourism, with the aim of diversifying its tourism and promoting its pepper product.

The local authorities have paid heed to scientific research in pepper cultivation to improve the quality and productivity of the specialty and develop local tourism sustainably.

Noticeably, the University of Can Tho successfully carried out a project namely “Building Phu Quoc pepper production model towards GlobalGAP (Global Good Agricultural Practice)” under the support of provincial Department of Science and Technology in 2012.

The project has helped five pepper farms with an area of 5 hectares each in the locality to meet the GlobalGAP standard for food hygiene.

Farmer Nguyen Van Binh is among pepper farm owners who are beneficial from the project. Thanks to properly applying biotechnology and GlobalGAP-qualified production line, his farm, along with two other farms, now welcome hundreds of foreign and domestic visitors per day.

To fully tap the farm’s advantages, he is also focusing on producing various products derived from pepper, like dipping salts, green and dried pepper. He is also building eco lodges and developing recreational activities to better serve visitors.

Binh’s farm represents the prevailing and appealing tourism product of pepper farm visit on the island, which is attracting many visitors. The new tourism product contributes to diversifying local tourism, improving local people’s livelihood and promoting Phu Quoc’s image to international friends.

According to Dr. Nguyen Xuan Niem, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Science and Technology, pepper farms should meet criteria for ecotourism service supply, including a sufficient area for dining, sightseeing, tourist services and accommodation, Global-GAP certification for pepper production and cultivation, human resources and basic facilities and equipment for tourism.

He also advised local farms to develop areas for pepper display to introduce its life-cycle and products, as well as to promote local tourism in particular and provincial tourism in general.

Currently, the local government is assisting some farms in pepper’s quality and landscape improvements and supporting services development.

Phu Quoc is the largest pepper growing district in the Mekong Delta with nearly 430 ha under the tree. Pepper in the locality is among the best in the country.

Nguyen Thanh Hung, a visitor from Ho Chi Minh City said, Phu Quoc’s pepper has a richer and stronger flavour than those from most other places in the mainland of Vietnam.

Pepper cultivation is a local traditional industry. It is defined by the district-level authorities as the locality’s economic spearhead. Pepper farms here cover 500 hectares with a total yield of approximately 1,250 tonnes per year.

In 2011, Phu Quoc pepper was recognised as a collective trademark of customers’ choice by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, demonstrating the local pepper’s values and quality as well as creating favourable conditions for the product to compete in price and quality in the international market.

Apart from pepper-based ecotourism, other tourism related projects have also been put into operation, including the Vinpearl Phu Quoc eco-tourism resort, Phu Quoc international airport, Bai Vong seaport, and waterway transport systems.

With the aim to attract more visitors, the locality has also launched a number of new tours and international flights to link the island with foreign countries such as Russia, Singapore, Cambodia, China and the Republic of Korea.

Besides, the local authorities also have actively upgraded infrastructure and promoted the values of cultural and historical sites on the island, including Phu Quoc prison and Phat Quang pagoda.

The island district of Phu Quoc is expected to welcome 800,000 tourists by the end of the year, with around 100,000 international visitors and turn into a hi-end eco-tourism resort centre in the region and further./.