The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expected pepper exports this year to increase in volume and value against last year.

The exports are expected to show a year-on-year increase of 6.1 percent in volume to 101,400 tonnes and 3.7 percent in value to 742.3 million USD this year due to a low supply from India on the world market, said Nguyen Viet Chien, director of the ministry's Informatics and Statistics Centre.

India , the second largest pepper producer in the world, is tipped to show a year-on-year decline of 5,000 tonnes to 43,000 tonnes of pepper this year.

The latest forecast for Vietnam is higher than that predicted in December 2011, which was a year-on-year decline of 17.8 percent in pepper export volume but a year-on-year increase of 1.7 percent in export value.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Pepper Association said the total national output of pepper would reach 95,000-100,000 tonnes this year, 10 percent lower than in 2011. It was previously forecast the output decline would be 15 percent, Chien said.

The expectation of low output in Vietnam and India , the two largest pepper producers in the world, has pushed pepper prices up on the global market after a fall in January 2012.

Chien said that in the first quarter this year export prices of Vietnamese pepper jumped to 6,816 USD per tonne or 42.4 percent over the same period last year.

Therefore, in the first quarter, Vietnam 's pepper exports saw a year-on-year surge of 30 percent in value to 164 million USD against a decline of 7.5 percent in volume to 24,000 tonne against the same period last year.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development wants to expand the pepper crop to 150,000ha with exports of 1 billion USD by 2015.

The association said the country needs a comprehensive strategy to add value in pepper products to achieve ambitious targets.

The strategy will have to focus on encouraging pepper producers to invest in processing technologies to add value and build brand names for Vietnamese pepper products.

It also said export companies should hire capable marketing staff to promote Vietnamese pepper products at prices close to world rates.

The country had 50,000ha under pepper last year and exported 120,000 tonnes worth 720 million USD.-VNA