Pepper, Harmonized code HS 0904, is a common household condiment. The description in the U.S. census bureau is “pepper of the genus Piper; dried or crushed or ground fruits of the genus Capsicum or of the genus Pimenta.” Pepper has been used since prehistoric times especially in India. Peppercorns, the unground pepper kernel, have been used as a precious trade item throughout history, so much so that they have been referred to as black gold and used as a monetary commodity. Black peppercorns have been found in ancient mummies and have been written about in Greek literature. Black pepper has been a major part of the spice trade and has influenced European explorers to find new trade routes to India leading to the discovery of the Americas. In 2002, pepper HS 0904, accounted for 20% of the monetary value of all the world’s spice trade. Black pepper today is produced mainly in Vietnam, accounting for 34% of the world’s pepper production. India accounts for 19%, Brazil 13%, and Indonesia at 9%.
World’s Top Pepper Exporters
In 2009 the world’s top exporter of pepper by value was Vietnam. Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of pepper, exported 630 million dollars worth of pepper in 2009, accounting for 17% of the world’s market. India, the second largest producer of pepper, exported 558 million dollars worth of pepper in 2009, taking 15% of the market. China who only accounted for 7% of the world’s pepper production, represented almost 15% of the world’s pepper export market.
World’s Top Importer of Pepper: The United States
Just as Rome was heavily reliant upon pepper in their time, so is the United States today. The U.S. imported 671 million dollars of pepper in 2009, and so was the number one importer of pepper in the world. the U.S. imported more pepper than any one country exported. It bought a total of 18% of the world’s pepper in 2009. The next largest buyer of pepper was Germany, who bought less than half that of the United States. Of this 671 million dollars spent on pepper, the U.S. bought 23% from one country, Indonesia, equalling 106 million American dollars spent on Indonesian pepper. India was the U.S.’s number two source for pepper and Vietnam was the third. The graph below shows the trend of pepper bought from countries by value over the last five years. Pepper imports to the United States from Indonesia were below 30 million in 2006. In 2010 the United States bought more than 100 million dollars worth of pepper from Indonesia. Indonesian sales of pepper to the United States more than tripled in the past five years, upsetting India and all other place holders. Indonesia is represented in yellow in the graph below.
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