Pepper is a highly-traded commodity in Sarawak. The Malaysian Pepper Board in Sibu is the second largest in Sarawak, second after Kuching.
Pepper, which was originally from India, underwent systematic planting in 1875 under Rajah Charles Brooke. The pepper here is now exported to New Zealand, Australia, Korea, Philippines, Japan, North America, and soon, Eastern Europe.
Pepper, which is from the ‘sireh’ (piper) family, is planted in hilly grounds because it is easy for it to get root disease due to retention of water in low lying areas.
The function of the Malaysian Pepper Board is to create a market for local pepper farmers, by acquiring all the processed pepper berries from them. These pepper, both white and black, will be graded according to species and quality, and then resold or exported. They are packed in 20 – 25kg craft paper bags.
The prices of white and black pepper fluctuate daily. However, with the Pepper Board, at least the local farmers have a ready buyer for their produces. Pepper season is from May to August, and the yield depends on weather, maintenance and fertiliser.
All pepper plants produce berries of what we know as black pepper. To get white pepper, one has to soak black pepper berries in water for about two weeks, so that the pericarp (or outer layer), comes off.
These days, pepper is not only a spice. It has also been made into various products including pepper sweets and perfume. The Malaysian Pepper Board markets pepper products under the brand name SaraSpice.
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