Farmers harvest pepper in Ia Hru commune, Chu Se district of Gia Lai province (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Ministry of Industry and Trade expects pepper to remain a key foreign currency earner for Vietnam this year, with targeted export turnover of 1.6 billion USD despite a fall in output in some farming areas.

With an expected year-on-year export growth of 13 percent, pepper is hoped to be among the 13 commodities earning shipment revenue of more than 1.5 billion USD in 2017.

In 2016, Vietnam shipped abroad 177,000 tonnes of pepper worth 1.42 billion USD, rising by 34.3 percent in volume and 12.9 percent in value.

The markets with the strongest surges in pepper imports from the country were Pakistan (up 3.14 times), the Philippines (3 times), the US (31.3 percent), Egypt (23.2 percent), Spain (14 percent), and India (12 percent).

In January 2017, about 8,000 tonnes of pepper were exported, raking in 56 million USD, down 18 percent in volume and 37 percent in value.

Many insiders attributed the fall to the Lunar New Year holiday, which made importers step up purchases at the end of 2016 and eased activities in January.

They believe that as a leading exporter with some of the best pepper in the world, Vietnam will enjoy faster export growth in 2017.

The Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA) predicted the country’s pepper output will hike at least 15 percent in the 2016-2017 crop although the yield in some localities could decline due to diseases and last year’s drought.

A survey conducted by the VPA shows that the production of old pepper farms (more than 10 years old) in the districts of Bu Dop (Binh Phuoc province), Dak R’lap (Dak Nong district), Cu Kuin and Ea H’leo (Dak Lak), and Dak Doa and Chu Puh (Gia Lai province) may drop about 30 percent from the 2015-2016 crop. Chu Se (Gia Lai) and Ea Ktur (Dak Lak), which are long-standing pepper growers, may record a tumble of 60-70 percent.

However, cultivation areas are expanding, increasing by 15-20 percent in 2016 from the previous year, due to higher pepper prices. The area of pepper farmed since 2010, with relatively high productivity – 5 tonnes per hectare on average, accounts for 10-20 percent of the area to be harvested between this February and April.

The output of the 2016-2017 crop is likely to grow 15-20 percent from the 2015-2016 crop, bringing this year’s pepper production to about 180,000 tonnes, the VPA noted.-VNA