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The Global Trend of Pepper Market and Africa’s Export Opportunities

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In 2019, Dieudonné Twahirwa, the 30-year-old CEO of Gashora Farms in Rwanda, made headlines by signing a lucrative 5-year, $500 million contract with GK International Enterprises, a prominent Chinese food importer. The agreement aimed to supply an impressive 50,000 tons of dried chili peppers annually to China, illustrating the vast potential within the global pepper market.

Pepper, being the second most highly-demanded seasoning worldwide after salt, continues to be a staple in culinary cultures across the globe. The global market for peppers surpassed a value of $4.5 billion in 2022, with projections estimating that worldwide spending on this spice will reach at least $5 billion by 2030.

At present, the global production and export of peppers are primarily dominated by five key countries. Vietnam leads the pack as the world’s top producer, contributing a substantial 216,000 tons, followed by Indonesia (82,000 tons), India (55,000 tons), Brazil (54,000 tons), and China (34,000 tons). Notably, only one African country, Ethiopia, features among the top 10 global producers. While Ethiopia stands as the sole African representative among the top global pepper producers, there are compelling opportunities for other nations, including Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Togo, and Sierra Leone, to make their mark in the industry.

Despite this, Africa is home to several distinctive pepper varieties with global appeal, such as the Scotch Bonnet from West Africa, Cameroon’s Penja pepper, and the African Bird’s Eye (peri-peri) pepper prevalent in Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique, and parts of eastern and Southern Africa.

Recognizing the untapped potential, African entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to not only contribute to the global pepper market but also to explore value addition by processing and branding African peppers. The success story of Cameroon’s Penja pepper, which boasts an internationally protected geographical indications (PGI) label conferring special branding rights, serves as a testament to the premium prices such branding can command internationally. Valued at over $300 per kilogram in 2017, its price has continued to increase.

As discussions around the potentials of Agribusiness and AgriTech take center stage at events like the UK Trade and Investment Summit Fair, facilitated by Cater and Merger Consults, the spotlight is on the commercial opportunities that pepper farming and processing present. Africa, with its unique pepper varieties, can position itself strategically in the global commodity markets, offering entrepreneurs a chance to capitalize on the spice’s rich history, economic significance, and ever-growing demand. The journey to becoming significant players in the global pepper market requires a concerted effort from African nations. By addressing challenges, diversifying varieties, adding value, and embracing sustainable practices, these nations can position themselves as key contributors to the growing demand for peppers worldwide. The success story of Ethiopia serves as inspiration and a blueprint for others to follow.