Thanks to the optimum geographical conditions for cultivation, Kampot pepper from Cambodia is the only PGI protected pepper in the world, which gives it the status of the best pepper and it is loved by chefs from all around the world, including Michelin star chefs. Under the brand .pepper..field, the Czech company Cambodian s.r.o. will buy Cambodian Pepper directly from the smallest Cambodian farmers at fair prices and without middlemen with the support of the Czech Development Agency’s B2B Program. In addition, in cooperation with a Cambodian partner, it will also open up EU markets to Cambodian farmers after end customers are found, provide the necessary technologies for sorting, drying and vacuum packing and ensure a stable source of income for them.
Like Champagne in France, Kampot pepper is the only pepper in the world to be protected by a geographical indication and can therefore be referred to as the champagne among peppers. In fact, several plagiarisms have already appeared worldwide. Genuine Kampot pepper must always be accompanied by four compulsory certificates that determine its quality, uniqueness and origin. The LOT NUMBER, which leads the customer to the specific farmers, must not be missing on the packaging either. They have been cultivating it for over 700 years in the province of Kampot in southern Cambodia in a tropical climate between the sea and a mountain range, which, together with the heavy soil, rich in minerals, is an ideal area for cultivation. It is cultivated with traditional cultivation methods purely by hand, and instead of fertilizers, farmers fertilize the soil with bat and cow dung. The plantations usually simulate a jungle environment, where pepper grew originally and where it was shaded by palm leaves. It is normally possible to harvest for up to twenty years from a single plant.
Even though the number of plantations has been increasing in recent years, the demand for pepper still exceeds the supply. Unlike Indian pepper, it has its own special taste. The combination of sharpness and sweetness with a hint of mint makes Kampot pepper a rarity that is much sought-after by the best chefs. Red pepper, which can fully ripen only in a few places around the world with optimal conditions for cultivation, is a great rarity and the flagship of Cambodia. It contains a lot of fructose, and unlike immature black pepper, it is also used for desserts. Peeling it produces real white pepper, which is also very rare. But the rise of the Khmer Rouge government and the ensuing civil war destroyed this tradition, and farmers did not return to cultivation until the new millennium. The renaissance in the cultivation of Kampot pepper in Cambodia was helped by its inclusion in the European list of products with a protected geographical indication, which ranks it among Cheddar or Champagne in terms of its uniqueness. “The EU certification means greater certainty for our farmers. It also stabilizes the pepper market and helps to maintain its quality,”said the Director of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, Ngoun Lay, in the TV show Horizont ČT24 last year.
Fair conditions and reliable Cambodian partners
Thanks to international organizations and the Cambodian Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, cultivation has become more efficient for farmers, but logistical cross-border journeys are only made accessible to the largest farms in the market with the necessary know-how and technology. “The rest of the medium and small farms are dependent on sales either within the country or in Vietnam for unsatisfactory prices, so most farmers find themselves in a difficult situation.” The aim of our project is to support small and tiny farmers that have no technological or process-related assistance from large farms or third parties. Under fair trade conditions, we will help them process and export Kampot pepper from Cambodia to EU countries and provide them with a stable source of income,“ explains David Pavel from Cambodian s.r.o..
Through its own funding, the Czech brand .pepper..field was able to help open up the EU market already during 2018 and set up all requisites, from fair prices, purchase, logistics, export, Czech design and marketing, to the final stage of finding the end customer. However, for the sustainable development of the project, technological security is necessary to ensure the self-sufficiency of the project, to ensure support for small farms and to ensure that it is not dependent on cooperation with other parties or large farms in terms of technology or processes. “The project partner on the Cambodian side is our subsidiary EU Land and Pepper Investment Co., Ltd., which allows us to buy pepper at fair-trade prices directly from small farmers and further process and prepare it for final sale and thus provide small farmers with the ability to compete against large farms and the ability to establish themselves in EU markets,” explains David Pavel. Another Cambodian partner is Kung Hun Thearith, who has many years of experience in the industry and has foreign business experience from his several-year stay in Australia.
The aim of .pepper..field is to also get the best pepper in the world to the Czech market in a unique Czech design and packaging and thus support small local businesses and sole traders. It concerns the technology of the project in the form of Czech machines for sorting, drying and vacuum packing Kampot pepper, grinders and boxes made of Czech wood and also stylish glass tubes for holding pepper. Everything thus suggests that the project .pepper..field supported by the Czech Development Agency will benefit not only small farmers in Cambodia, but also gourmets from EU countries, including the Czech Republic. “If we can improve the level of gastronomy in a straightforward and simple way not only in the Czech Republic, and at the same time, ensure fair conditions for the lives of farmers at the other end of the world, then it is the best thing we could have hoped to achieve,” concludes Klára Dohnalová from Cambodian s.r.o.