‘Pepper stop-buy only temporary’

KUCHING: The Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) has recently clarified that the suspended purchase of pepper from July 26 is only temporary, and will resume as usual on Aug 8.

Its chairman Larry Sng Wei Shien said this in response to a recent newspaper report that claimed pepper farmers had been rushing to sell their commodity in Sarikei following the stop-buy announcement by MPB on July 26.

Sng, who is also Julau MP, stressed: “There were no farmers rushing to sell their pepper in Sarikei as reported. There were only about 20 sellers in Sibu and less than 10 at our Bintangor branch on July 26.

“Despite the announcement that the MPB is suspending purchases temporarily, we still continue to purchase pepper from farmers who come to sell their pepper,” he told the media here yesterday.

According to Sng, this was not the first time MPB stopped buying pepper temporarily. It has been buying pepper above the prices offered by pepper traders in Malaysia.

“Malaysian pepper prices depend on world supply and demand. The current world production in 2018 is estimated at 438,650 metric tonnes. The total world export figure is 385,000 metric tonnes.

“Usually our prices are about RM0.80 to about RM2 higher per kg, depending on location. The reason for us buying at higher prices is to help pepper farmers get higher value for their pepper, for both black and white (pepper),” he elaborated.

Sng (centre) with Catherine (first left), Philip (second left), Liew (second right) and Othman at the press conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, MPB director-general Stanley Liew Joo Kong added: “Now is the peak season of our Sarawak pepper harvest thus, many farmers want to sell their pepper daily. On average, the MPB has bought almost 100 metric tonnes a day.

“On our part, we have limitation in terms of workforce and storage facility (warehouses). Although we have ready buyers from overseas, we need time to process.”

MPB has three processing centres in Kuching, Sibu and Sarikei. These processing plants have dry and wet cleaning facilities, including Mikrokleen (steam-treated) for higher quality pepper for international markets.

These machineries cost millions of ringgit. Like any machinery, each has a limit in its processing capacity.

Sng said: “In view of the harvest season now, we have added manpower and increased the work shifts to cope with the situation.

“Thus, we appeal to all farmers to understand and cooperate with MPB so that we can continue to provide quality services to our pepper farmers.

“We just need our pepper farmers to hold their stock temporary and we promise to resume buying their pepper at the same prices.”

MPB is also moving to downstream activities, marketing value-added products aggressively and involved in research and development to help improve the pepper industry.

Sng also mentioned that after the rebranding and new packaging of downstream brand SaraSpice, MPB would be increasing marketing and promotional activities to promote their value-added products both locally and internationally as well as engaging in social media and e-commerce marketing.

Also present were MPB deputy director-general (development) Philip Gaweng, director-general (operation) Othman Sajili and senior director (trade division) Catherine Umbit.