Cambodia's Prized Kampot Pepper Crop Devastated by Climate Change

Cambodia's Kampot pepper crop is facing a significant crisis due to a six-month drought and record temperatures, leaving farmers with withered and dying plants. The 2024 yield is expected to be halved, with many farmers expecting no income this year.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Cambodia's Prized Kampot Pepper Crop Devastated by Climate Change

Cambodia's Prized Kampot Pepper Crop Devastated by Climate Change

Cambodia's renowned Kampot pepper crop, prized by top chefs worldwide for its intense floral flavor, is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the devastating effects of climate change. Farmers in the Kampot region are expecting a significantly reduced yield in 2024 following a six-month drought and record temperatures reaching a scorching 43°C (109°F) in late April.

Why this matters: The impact of climate change on Cambodia's Kampot pepper crop has far-reaching implications for the global food supply chain and the livelihoods of farmers who have cultivated this treasured spice for generations. As extreme weather events become more frequent, the world's most prized and unique crops are at risk of disappearing, affecting not only local economies but also the diversity of global cuisine.

The extreme heat and lack of rainfall have left pepper plants withered and dying, with many farmers losing their entire crop. Chhim Laem, a 55-year-old farmer, described the dire situation, saying, "It is so hot this year, no rains, and we have no water to water the pepper plants. So they all died." sun, amidst, record, temperatures The drought has pushed farmers to a breaking point, with many expecting no yield this year and a fraction of their usual income.

Nguon Lay, a 71-year-old fourth-generation pepper farmer, expressed his despair, stating, "This year we meet the biggest obstacle... We don't know what to do. We see problems, but we can't resolve them." Lay, who harvested nine tonnes of pepper last year, expects nothing in 2024. The impact extends beyond the farmers, with Kann Sinouch, president of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, warning that consumers will soon feel the effects of the shortage. "For 2024 and 2025, we won't have abundant pepper for them to eat... It is zero," Sinouch said.

The Kampot pepper industry, which survived the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and decades of instability, now faces the existential threat of climate change. In 2016, the European Union granted Kampot pepper a protected geographical indication, meaning only pepper grown in the designated area can bear the Kampot name. This article boosted production and global demand for the unique spice, which can sell for up to $200 per kilo.

Farmers have been preparing for the challenges of climate change by storing water and building roofs to protect their crops from the scorching sun, but these measures have proven insufficient in the face of the current extreme conditions. Chan Deng, a 67-year-old pepper farmer who has been growing the crop since the 1960s, remains determined to adapt, saying, "This year it is strangely hot... But I will dig more ponds to store water, hoping that in three years a good yield will return. In the meantime, we will fight against nature."

The Kampot region produced about 120 tonnes of peppercorns in 2023, but the 2024 yield is expected to be halved due to the devastating effects of the heat and drought. As farmers grapple with the consequences of climate change, the future of Cambodia's prized Kampot pepper hangs in the balance, with far-reaching implications for the global culinary community and the livelihoods of those who have cultivated this treasured spice for generations.

Key Takeaways

  • Cambodia's Kampot pepper crop faces crisis due to climate change.
  • 2024 yield expected to be halved due to drought and record temperatures.
  • Farmers lose entire crop, expect no income, and struggle to adapt.
  • Global culinary community affected, pepper prices may surge.
  • Kampot pepper's future hangs in balance, threatening local economies.