» The farmers voice
Practical Tips | 26 Sep 2008
Pepper : Maximizing production and market outlets

Pepper is a common vegetable consumed in most homes, but few persons know that pepper production can be commercialized and that it has any medicinal value (see p 5) apart from being a stimulant

Spurred by a Mutengene based entrepreneur who is transforming pepper into various secondary products, sold both locally and abroad, TFV investigated into the production of this highly valued vegetable that has great potentials.
But just how a farmer can improve on the productivity, TFV learnt that home produced seeds and fertile volcanic soils are the best ways which farmers can maximize production.

“Pepper growing requires a lot of techniques if you must get high yields, just like it can give you a lot of income it needs a lot more attention thus apart from very high soil fertility needs of pepper, pests and diseases are common if you associate them with the wrong crops,” Charly Tonifor, Project Manager for Limbe based CERUT, who have researched extensively on pepper and is working with a lot of farmers in the South West told TFV.
Apart from this warning Charly like many other researchers think, “farmers need proper seed selection to be sure of good yields, farmers must make sure seeds selected are not from rotten fruits. You need to grow a pepper tree for at least one year before you collect seeds from that pepper.”
The project manager also notes “most imported seeds are not the best, most of the pepper we grow in Cameroon need that the seeds be produced locally and that’s why it’s necessary to know how to produce good seeds.”

Apart from joining many others to say there is a ready market for pepper in Cameroon, Charly believes processing is the best way to avoid the very low prices during peak seasons since pepper is perishable.
Speaking to TFV at her small factory about 400metres from the Mutengene-Douala highway, Taka Gladys Ngwe says her small factory that produces four kinds of pepper from various kinds of pepper believes the processing plant could produce thousands of jobs if her effort was supported.
“Nigeria is just next door with a population of over 130 millions and they don’t even have pepper. The pepper we have in Cameroon, from testimonies, is one of the best in the world, like the scotch bonnet that has an unbeatable aroma, we have the habaneru with a wonderful flavour”, Taka Gladys Ngwe told TFV.

To this entrepreneur, not only will a lot of Cameroonians gain imployment if this sector is promoted but she can “create a situation in which farmers who grow pepper will create small holders’ schemes, then create a kind of price stabilization for a bucket of pepper to cost 5000francs at all times to avoid the drastic waste when prices drop.”
Pepper, TFV learnt, is not only a traditional stimulant in most tribes but has strong medicinal values (see another story).

How to process pepper
According Taka Gladys, the Mutengene based pepper entrepreneur who says her products were certified by Centre Pasteur in Paris, France the following steps are used to get liquid pepper:
-Sort and warm the pepper to remove wounded ones when got fresh from the farm
-Putting the pepper in large sinks and washing again
-Using colander pans with holes to remove water
-Blending the pepper before starting the very professional process of extraction using various machines.

Taka Gladys Ngwe, pepper transformer, Mutengene, SWP

How did you start this idea of bottling pepper?
I found myself without a job when the CDC tea estates were sold and wanted something that would be unique, especially as I was worried with this peppers wastage, so I started a small study. I discovered that during peak seasons, there was so much pepper and a lot of wastage. I also noticed that during the scarce season, a bucket of pepper that was sold for 1000Fcfa went up to 10000 or 12000 Fcfa in the dry season before it started falling again. I discovered that if I could buy a lot of this pepper and process it, then there would be some kind of price stabilization. secondly I will create a situation where prices will not be too low.
How do you get the pepper?
I decided to create a network of pepper farmers. We are enlarging the network. We get the pepper from the network and pay immediately then transport to the factory. I am still working with CERUT to network the pepper planters in the South West. There are farmers in Muabong, there are Kupe Muanenguba and Tole pepper farmers. We are still to network with the people at Ekondo Titi and other pepper growing areas.

How many kinds of products do you produce?
I process four brands of pepper, and the products are; first the liquid pepper already in the market, the pepper cube, pepper paste which I call it spice-up because I do it with a combination of spices and olive oil. This is very delicious. We are still studying the shelf live but I think in a very short while one will come out. Then, the shredded pepper made mostly for those in the Diaspora who want to taste the pepper fresh. We conserve it, it stays fresh and its aroma is intact. So we package it, label it and send it to those in the Diaspora. We have constraints of packaging.
Why is packaging not easy?
The cost of production is very high and considering the prices we are selling the pepper, the bigger bottle is 800francs. We are thinking of raising the price because of the cost of extracting oil. We used to buy a twenty liter container for 14500Fcfa but it’s gone up to about 20000Fcfa now.

How much pepper can you transform?
If I had the resources, there wouldn’t be any limit to what I cab produce It will be a great relief to farmers who farm but end up discouraged because of waste. If I had the resources, I ‘d recruit a lot of workers, buy machinery. I need the pepper cube machine, the pepper processing-extraction machine and a homogenizer cost about 25mFcfa. Processing locally will still cost me a lot. The machines will make it a whole pepper company that will create employment for many in the rural areas.
Can’t you get into a partnership?
I need partners, I can’t do this alone. If I can have partners from any part of the world, I will very much welcome them.
Interviewed by Bangsi Daniel

Charly Tonifor, Project manager for CERUT,

Where does pepper do well?
Pepper is considered a vegetable crop and we have two types of pepper. You have the sweet pepper and the hot pepper. The sweet pepper grows well in cold climates and under rich soil conditions while the hot one does well in both hot and cold climates. It will do well in volcanic soils.
So in which specific areas will which kind of pepper grow?
Pepper growing is concentrated in certain areas not because these are the only places pepper can do well, but because the people there are used to growing pepper because this is traditionally part of their food style. Being used to the pepper, they start getting to commercializing pepper growing. In the South West you have a lot of pepper growing around the Kupe Muanenguba aream even in Foumbot, Bafang, Wum etc a lot of pepper is grown.

How can a farmer produce the seeds to get good harvests?
The first thing is selection of good fruits. The type of pepper you want, then the fruits from which the seeds are coming must be one year old.
During which seasons can you find pepper?
It’s in two seasons. The wet and the dry seasons. During the wet season the pepper is too much that the price is very low. But if you can produce off-season pepper you will make a lot of money in the dry season.

What are the medicinal values of pepper?
Pepper is the commonest stimulant. Just like the name goes it can make you have appetite and consume more and when you take in much food especially food that has good quality then you are bound to be healthy. I don’t know much about the medicinal use of pepper but I know that pepper is an integral component of organic insecticide used to fight insects in the farms especially now that we are talking about organic farming. Pepper can be used instead of synthetic chemicals that are sometimes poisonous.

Can a young Cameroonian make a living from pepper?
That one is clear, pepper in the dry season can pay you more than even cocoa and coffee. There are farmers in the areas where we work who had cut down their coffee stems and replaced with pepper. In the rainy season one bucket is about 2000 francs but in the dry season 6 buckets cost at least 30000 francs. Sometimes a 100Kg bag of pepper cost up to 90000 francs. Unfortunately pepper is very perishable. But then there is a market not only in Cameroon but beyond like Garbon, Central African Republic, Equitoral Guinea and Nigeria where wholesalers come in to buy pepper. So we have both an external and local market for pepper.

There is somebody in Mutengene processing pepper; can this be a way out for wastage in the peak season?
I really commend her effort. She needs encouragement to go further. I have had to visit her installations and I see that she is doing a good job. She has made all the analysis and the products are of quality good for exportation. To avoid wastage we need to transform much of our pepper to liquid and powder pepper. This will usually add value to the pepper we have.