Pepper has always played a significant role in Indonesia’s economy and in 2018, contributed to 43 million tons of exports . The pepper industry has allocated 180.000 hectares of land and employs around 500.000 farmers across the country, making it one of the most relied upon national agricultural resources. However, in recent years, pepper productivity has declined, as seen from the largest pepper producing areas in Indonesia such as Lampung, Kalimantan, and Bangka Belitung, causing the country to lose its frontrunning position as the largest pepper producer in the world to Vietnam. There are several factors that inhibit the development of pepper cultivation in Indonesia, notably, lack of technological use by farmers, unavailability of cheap equipment, minimum product diversification, and loss to competitor countries.

Strategies for Upgrading the Pepper Industry

Kemala, a researcher from the Indonesian Center for Estate Crops Research and Development, has designed several development strategies for the upstream, production, marketing, and management of the pepper value chain. The main upstream challenges for the pepper industry is the inability to use superior varieties of pepper and low value added activities or activities that consume significant resources but add little value to customers. The optimum strategy to solve these issues include the implementation of a stock seed, the availability of knowledge and technical experts, utilizing biofertilizers and biopesticides, and improving the network of farming tools and the machine industry.

In the production subsystem, strengthening the center of pepper agribusiness provides a comparative advantage. Furthermore, technology can be used to transition farmers from using high production inputs to lower production inputs. Other technical pepper farming activities include utilization of superior varieties, controlling pests and diseases, creating an integrated management system, and integrating pepper cultivation with farm animals. Improving the quality of pepper and diversifying its products is also important to maintain the standard quality of Indonesia’s “Munthok White Pepper” and “Lampong Black Pepper”.

The optimization of pepper marketing requires increasing the intensity of market information to reach the farmers. To maximize pepper farming management, farmers as individuals and a group must be empowered through local and global pepper institutions.

Technology as a Catalyst for Pepper Industry Development

The implementation of technological tools can be one of the catalysts for farmers and businesses in applying the strategies to optimize their pepper quality. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data analysis can especially assist farmers in adopting value added activities to their pepper farm management. Addressing the challenges faced within the value chain, including increasing access to knowledge and markets, can be done through tech innovations such as the SpiceUp App. SpiceUp provides a platform for promoting pepper farm improvement strategies by providing services such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) courses, pest and disease control, weather analysis, pepper price updates, and connecting farmers and businesses to the marketplace.

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