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MAJOR REGIONS, VARIETIES
Pepper is the worlds most traded spice. World prices of pepper are reported by region and on commodity boards for traders and merchants usually as USD/MT (US dollars per Metric Ton). As with all commodities prices of international peppercorns change daily. Prices typically reflect the quality, demand and future speculation on the peppercorns. The most common speculation can come from weather conditions impacting the prices as traders forecast seasonal crop output and quality.
The ideal conditions for growing peppercorns are in tropical countries which essentially means most pepper is grown close to the equator. Grown at good elevation, on flat or slightly sloping plains, good soil drainage and part shade are ideal growing conditions.
Vietnam is the world biggest peppercorn grower representing roughly one third of world production (2015).
Brazil is another major peppercorn region. Much of Brazil’s pepper is absorbed by the United States which may be a function of its proximity to the US.
India is known for the export of its Malabar black pepper. India has had declining production over the early 2000’s due to pest and disease problems as well as lower harvested yields from unperforming vines.
Malaysia harvests its peppercorns in May. Sarawak is the main peppercorn produced in Malaysia. Malaysian pepper has traditionally been exported to China, Japan & Korea.
There are many different types of peppercorns available. Most people will be familiar with the black peppercorn – but even this peppercorn comes in many different viarieties such as Vietnam black, Tellicherry, Malabar, Lampung etc. This is what makes peppercorns an exciting spice, different regions producing variations of a black peppercorn – and this is just the black.
There are many different species of peppercorns and even with the different species of peppercorns grown in different regions there are still other peppercorns that are not really peppercorns but have characteristics similar to peppercorns.
Commercial grade peppercorns that are sold in supermarkets and supplied to industry quite often use Vietnam black pepper. This is a commercially available peppercorn in Australia. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Vietnam black pepper but as you move away from a commercially available pepper and onto other available peppercorns then you can start to appreciate the delight pepper can play in your cuisine and why it’s the most desired spice.