When one think of the tasteful varieties of spices around the world, Pepper (Piper Nigrum) will distinctively come to mind. This is evidently true because pepper is widely used in cuisines and very deeply ingrained in many cultures. Before the turn of the century, pepper regarded as one of the most valuable and sought after commodities. In ancient time, pepper was both used as therapeutic foods and as medicines. Undoubtedly, the history of pepper and the spice trade is a tale replete with conquests, wealth, fame and intrigue.
The intricate history of pepper in Malaysia dated back as early as 1619 as some of the earliest historical records suggested that pepper was first planted in Langkawi, Kedah. In Sarawak, the spice quickly attracted the attention of most growers in the early days after Charles Brooke introduced some encouraging incentives to the local farmers. Presently, the state of Sarawak remains the largest producer in the country. Where more than 90% of the country’s total production of around 30,433 metric tonnes produced in 2017. The industry has evolved to become an integral part of the rural economic activities especially in Sarawak. To-date, there are about 33,700 smallholders who depend on pepper farming for livelihood. In fact, many had their lives transformed from poverty to sufficiency. Sarawak pepper, a household name for pepper produced in Malaysia. It is not only synonymous with high quality but also a renowned brand in the international spice market.
Currently, Malaysia is the world’s fifth largest producer and prides itself to be among the pioneers with state of the art laboratories and high standard processing facilities.
The Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB), a Government agency under the purview of the Ministry of Primary Industries. Has entrusted to spearhead the development of the local pepper industry which covers growing and production, extension, research and marketing. Throughout the years, MPB has obtained global standard certifications and accreditations. Having an ISO certified grading system that is continuously fortified with cutting edge technology for quality control in order to meet increasing quality parameters demanded by consumers from advanced countries, has enabled Sarawak Pepper to penetrate the world market. This speaks volumes about the quality, reliability and reputation of Sarawak Pepper.
The industry is now moving towards producing high quality processed and premium pepper through its production facilities including its HACCP – certified steam treatment system. Steam treated Black and White pepper berries marketed as “Sarawak Mikrokleen Steam Treated Pepper”. A product with enhanced hygienic properties as well as distinct aroma and flavour. MPB has also set up a modern grinding plant to produce crushed pepper – fine powder, coarse or cracked. Pepper is widely exported as black and white pepper (berries and powder) in bulk packs. Pepper and pepper products for domestic and overseas markets also come in various forms and brands; including MPB’s own “Saraspice” range of retail and novelty premium products.
To maintain quality consistency, all consignments must graded and undergo stringent laboratory testing in MPB’s Quality Control Laboratories in Kuching, Sarikei and Sibu prior to export. Meanwhile, at the downstream level, the aim is to produce innovative pepper based products both in the food and non-food segments. Notably, some of the products such as pepper marinades have adopted and improvised for commercial production by private entrepreneurs through transfer of technology sessions (TOTs), exhibitions, cooking demonstrations and collaborative efforts. MPB will continue to intensify its research capacity to increase productivity and pepper yield, as well as transform the conventional production lines to value-added products production.
The upstream sector tasked to developing new pepper varieties with higher yields and better resistance to pests and diseases, and new cultivation practices as well as eco-friendly technology production. MPB’s laboratories are fully equipped to monitor food contaminants such as pesticide residue in pepper for export as well as on imported pepper. This is just one of the ever increasing quality parameters and stringent measures that MPB is well-placed to handle. It is fascinating to note that Sarawak Pepper is the first Malaysian agricultural product to registered with Geographical Indication (GI), a prestigious recognition accorded by MyIPO. Last but not least…..think pepper think Sarawak Pepper.