Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of culinary black pepper (Piper nigrum) accounting for 60% of the world’s trade and roughly 45% of the EU. In 2022, the total pepper crop area was estimated to be more than 120,000 hectares, concentrated mainly in the Central Highlands and Southeast regions. The Central Highlands’ area for pepper production accounts for about 60% of the country’s total area for pepper production. Pepper is a perennial crop that brings high income to farmers and has contributed to reducing poverty for pepper growers here.
Đăk Lăk – On 20 November 2023, IDH coordinated with the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam, the Plant Protection Department (PPD) the Vietnam Pepper and Spice Association (VPSA), and national and local partners to organize the Project closing meeting “Scaling sustainable production and trade of Vietnamese pepper“. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and IDH and implemented in the period 2021-2023 in 3 Central Highlands provinces: Dak Lak, Dak Nong, and Gia Lai. This project is co-organized by IDH, PPD, VPSA, and the European Spice Association (ESA), and supported by the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI) and the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA).
The project is within the framework of the ARISE Plus Program funded by the EU to support the Government of Vietnam in achieving benefits from bilateral trade commitments, focusing on the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA); Promoting the export of high-quality products and services from Vietnam to the EU.
After 3 years of implementation, thanks to the very active and effective cooperation of partners from central to local levels, the Project has contributed to improving the livelihoods of 8,000 smallholder pepper farmers and assisting pepper production and processing businesses in increasing sustainable sourcing.
Some key results of the project:
1. 60% of the pepper volume complies with the MRL requirements of the international markets, the value of certified pepper exports in 2023 is estimated to reach 600 million USD.
2. 50% of agrochemical retailers committed to comply with the regulations on pesticide management.
3. Reducing the use of banned pesticides by 98%, especially herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, in the context of high residue warnings in the market.
4. Improving the livelihoods of nearly 8,000 pepper smallholder farmers in an area of 8,500 ha in the Central Highlands.
5. 12 leading Vietnamese pepper production and export enterprises and cooperatives have participated in the project.
6. The world’s top 7 end buyers of spices have committed to support and coordinate with Vietnam’s pepper industry to promote sustainable production and trade.
7. 14 Agriteams were established to provide farmers with agricultural services, consultancy, and supervision of responsible chemical use.
8. A total of 160 training courses were conducted on good agricultural practices (GAP), integrated pest management (IPM), integrated plant health management (IPHM), and cover-ground management, etc. These initiatives aimed to reduce the use of input materials, leading to a 10% decrease in carbon emissions and a 17% reduction in irrigation water usage.
Speaking at the summary session, Ms. Hoang Thi Lien – VPSA’s chairwoman said: “The influence of pioneering businesses on the project’s scale of operations has created a positive and effective spillover for the remaining businesses inside and outside VPSA as well as created impacts that help change the perception of farmers working in raw material gardens. It can be said that Vietnam’s pepper industry has had an outreach project on the scale of the entire industry for the first time. We appreciate the supporting role of the EU and IDH in this cooperation project with VPSA”.
Mr. Nguyen Quy Duong – Deputy of PPD commented: “In addition to the direct impacts of the project, another extremely important impact is the environmental issue. In the past, farmers used chemicals and pesticides subjectively and emotionally, which affected the living environment. In addition to factors of production, income, etc., the health of farmers and people living in production areas are huge issues that need to be taken into careful consideration. The project has changed people’s awareness about using pesticides properly and that has ensured people’s health”.
Ms. Phan Thi Van, IDH Vietnam’s Program Director shared that: “IDH commits to continue supporting the sustainable development of Vietnam’s pepper industry. In the coming time, we will increase the mobilization of investment participation from the public and private sectors to replicate the project’s results. In particular, IDH will continue to accompany MARD, VPSA, and spices enterprises to develop and implement programs focusing on pesticide residue management issues and improving people’s livelihoods. At the same time, support Vietnam’s spice industry to meet new market requirements on social and environmental issues”.
The project summary meeting attracted the participation of nearly 100 delegates from the Central Government (MARD, Ministry of Industry and Trade, PPD, Department of International Cooperation, National Agricultural Extension Center, Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture in Vietnam – PSAV, VPSA, EU, SSI, along with many delegates from provinces participating in the project, international organizations, businesses, cooperatives, farmers and press agencies.
During the business trip, representatives of the EU Delegation to Vietnam along with IDH and partners visited the project area in Cu M’gar district, Ea Tar landscape cluster (Dak Lak), and the project area. Pepper processing factory of Simexco DakLak Company. Here, representatives of farmers, cooperatives, and businesses shared about the impacts of the project in changing sustainable pepper farming practices, improving the livelihoods of pepper farmers, and increasing pepper output to meet market requirements.