A geographical indication label for a unique variety of pepper in Cameroon is improving the incomes of local farmers and ensuring the long-term future of the product. Recognition of the pepper’s quality and economic importance means it is one of only three African commodities with such a label.
A farmer association in Penja village, in the Littoral region of eastern Cameroon, has been awarded an internationally protected geographical indication (PGI) label for its product, Penja Pepper. With support from the French development agency, Agence Française de Développement, the association obtained patented rights over the product name from the African Intellectual Property Organization in 2013. Since then, membership of the farmers’ association has increased by more than 10 times, and the price of the coveted white pepper has skyrocketed.
According to agricultural experts, Penja valley’s natural micro-climate and volcanic soil on the flanks of Mt. Kupe Muanenguba give the pepper (spice) a unique flavour and taste, attracting increasing demand in national, regional and international markets. The product is one of only three African commodities – alongside Oku honey from Cameroon and Ziama Macenta coffee from Guinea – to be given a PGI label, prohibiting the product’s name from being used outside of its original region. Approximately 60% of the Penja Pepper is consumed locally and in neighbouring countries, whilst 40% is exported to European markets. “It is a real blessing for Cameroon and especially the farmers in Penja to see that Penja Pepper is fast becoming an export crop like cocoa and coffee,” says Henry Eyebe Ayissi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Successful certification, and subsequent demand from restaurants around the world has increased production from less than 150 t in 2014 to 350 t in 2016. The price of the spice has also increased significantly since certification, from €3.80 per kg before September 2013 to €12 per kg in 2014, and €21.30 in 2015/2016. This price spike is helping farmers improve their incomes and expand production areas. “Since certification, the market for our product has become stable and secure, guaranteeing our income,” states David Nzoto, a PPFA farmer member.