History of Kampot Pepper

Pepper cultivation in Kampot was first mentioned in the journals of the Chinese diplomat, Zhou Daguan, in the 13th century, after his visit to the region. Larger scale pepper farming commenced under the French colonial rule in the 1870s and steadily grew in the years leading to the 20th century.

Between 1873 – 1874, the sultan of Aceh from the island of Sumatra, burned their pepper plantations so as not to fall into the hands of the Dutch. Some of the production was thus relocated to the Kampot province in Cambodia, South East Asia.

At the beginning of the 20th century, approximately 8,000 tons of Kampot pepper was being harvested however production slowly declined until the 1960s when the Cambodian civil war greatly impacted production. The 1930s and 1940s reportedly were the largest production periods of Kampot pepper when it is estimated that 100 tons of pepper was being harvested per year. Production of Kampot pepper declined to approximately 4 tons per year by the end of the 1990s.

In the 2000s, farmers began returning to the region of which six (6) districts in the Kampot province have redeveloped pepper farms. Foreign organsations and owners have also increased the number of hectares of Kampot pepper being harvested and have greatly influenced the marketing of Kampot pepper internationally.

Kampot pepper obtained the World Trade Organization’s Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2010, tying the quality of the product to its origin. The production, whilst relatively small compared to the early 20th century, is now increasing each year with approximately 20 tons per year now being produced.

Whilst the Kampot province is famous for its quality of pepper, Cambodia in general has had a major growth in pepper farming with at least 2700 hectares under cultivation in Tbong Khmum region alone. By production, Vietnam is the largest producer of pepper in the world, however, Cambodia enjoys a reputation of higher quality pepper with Kampot pepper being seen as the best quality.

Early Kampot Pepper Plantation

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HISTORICAL IMAGES OF KAMPOT & KEP