Spicing Up The Market: Ugandan Hot Peppers

Published Nov 19, 2019
There is a high demand for Ugandan hot peppers due to their intense heat and tropical aroma. Nevertheless, there are still some export barriers to overcome, such as strict phytosanitary regulations.

Spicy, hot peppers are all the rage these days. Hot pepper sauce production was one of the fastest-growing food industries in the US in 2013, worth over USD 1 billion at that time. The US, Latin America, and India are famous origins for these hot peppers, but African countries are making their entrance into the market. Uganda has started producing not just chili peppers, but also the extremely spicy habanero and Scotch bonnets, and the demand is very high.

High Demand for High-Intensity Ugandan Hot Peppers

Both habanero and Scotch bonnets are very hot, rated 100,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale. The Scotch bonnet is shaped like a bonnet (hat), as its name suggests, whereas the habanero is lantern-shaped. The colors range from vibrant green to orange and red. Ugandan hot peppers are prized for the heat intensity, long shelflife, and tropical aroma. Uganda’s unique growing conditions - most of the country is located at 1,000 meters above sea level - give the habanero and Scotch bonnet their extra spicy kick.

According to Quresh Fidahusein from Zahra Food Industries, an exporter of the hot peppers, there is a lot of interest coming from Europe, much to his own surprise. As European cuisine is typically not very spicy, Fidahusein thinks this high interest is partly due to the increased popularity of Indian and Latin American cuisine in Europe. Most demand arises during the winter months when Mediterranean countries no longer produce hot peppers and importers look to other origins. The Ugandan peppers are available year-round and not consumed domestically, almost all produce is meant for the international market.

Pepper Production Still a Risky Business

Producing hot peppers is not without risks in Uganda. The produce is very sensitive to pests, such as False Codling Moth (FCM). Europe has strong regulations on its produce imports and exporters have to conform to strict phytosanitary standards from the Ugandan government as well. Zahra Food Industries mentions that the burden to comply with these standards mainly falls on the exporters rather than the farmers. The Ugandan government has increased inspections and education to farmers, but the company itself is also closely involved with the production and harvest. By working closely together with farmers, it can ensure that the peppers are pest-free and that they conform with the EU regulations.

According to Zahra Food Industries, the Ugandan hot pepper market is currently at a crossroads. On the one hand, the strict regulations by both the Ugandan government and the EU have created anxiety in the market. As a result of the regulations, the price for Ugandan peppers will have to go up, making exporters more cautious. On the other hand, many farmers and exporters are intrigued by the product due to the rising interest in Europe. Hot peppers are seen as a potential cash crop.

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