China has been the largest pepper (bell and chilli) producer in the world for many years now and its production figures have increased every year since 1997. In 2007, 53% of all the world’s peppers were grown in China.
That same year, production totalled more than 14 million tonnes, a 7.7% increase on the previous year and an increase of 99.5% compared with 10 years earlier, when approximately 7 million tonnes were harvested, according to the Statistics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAOSTAT).
After China, the most important pepper producing country is Mexico (6.5% of worldwide pepper production), followed by Indonesia, Turkey and Spain (approximately 4% of worldwide production each).
China is also the country with the largest pepper crop acreage worldwide. The pepper area harvested has remained fairly stable since 2002, with few significant fluctuations. In 2007, China accounted for no less than 38.3% of the world’s total pepper acreage. That year, peppers were grown on an area of 653 million hectares, an increase of 70.5% compared with ten years earlier.
With these production and acreage figures, it is not surprising that China is now a major exporter of bell and chilli peppers. Pepper export figures began to climb dramatically from the year 2001, when they totalled 12,714 tonnes, a 141% increase compared with the previous year. Between 2001 and 2004, pepper exports soared, reaching a total of 66,579 tonnes in 2004. However, this trend was reversed in 2005, with exports falling 40.8% to a total of 39,425 tonnes.In spite of this decrease, in 2005 China was the 8th most important pepper exporter worldwide, behind countries such as Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands and the USA.
On the other hand, in recent years China has not been an influential pepper importer. Compared with the leading pepper importers worldwide – the USA, Germany and the UK, which imported 488,937 MT, 287,943 MT and 154,251 MT respectively in 2005 – China’s pepper import figures are fairly low. Nevertheless, a considerable increase has been observed in the last few years, with imports totalling 4,343 MT in 2005, a rise of 311% compared with three years earlier. this notable upward trend in Chinese pepper imports can be explained by the country’s need to feed its growing population, given that the food China produces is insufficient.