Vietnam and the Business of Pepper

As more international travelers discover the taste sensations that await them in Vietnam, the country’s exports are surging for one of the ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine (and most other cuisines): pepper.

By far, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of black and white pepper — with 125,000 acres growing  well over 110,000 metric tons with a $500 million export value.  That far exceeds pepper production in Indonesia, Brazil and India, the next biggest growers.  The biggest importer of Vietnamese pepper: USA.

This year is working out well for Vietnam’s pepper farmers; prices just rose $100 a ton to $6,150 for black pepper and $6,500 per ton of white pepper.  Through mid-March, Vietnam had already exported 20,374 tons, a 22% increase in  volume and 73% in value.

But for the world’s importers to make their food taste anything like Vietnamese cooking, they’ll need a more ubiquitous ingredient that Vietnam mostly keeps to itself:  fish sauce.


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