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Cambodia’s fiery kampot pepper wins EU recognition

Cambodia’s Kampot pepper, famed for its intense floral flavor, has won protection from the European Union

Published: Updated:

Cambodia’s Kampot pepper, famed for its intense floral flavor, has won protection from the European Union - joining an exclusive club of gourmet favorites including champagne, Cornish pasties, Gorgonzola cheese and Darjeeling tea.

The announcement, made in a statement on Wednesday, is the first time the EU has awarded its “Protected Geographical Indication” status to a Cambodian product.

The ruling means only pepper grown in the southern Cambodian province under specific conditions can market itself inside EU member countries as Kampot pepper.

“Mrech Kampot (Kampot pepper) will benefit from a very high level of protection on the EU market,” the EU said in a statement.

The move outlaws “imitations and evocations of the name.”

Kampot has long been regarded by many chefs as producing one of the world’s finest pepper strains. The peppercorns come in green, white, black and red varieties, with the latter the most sought after.

It gained global acclaim during the French colonial occupation of Cambodia when it was exported widely, but the industry was nearly wiped out during the Khmer Rouge era.

In more recent years it has bounced back, with Kampot pepper gracing hip restaurant menus across the globe.

Nguon Lay, president of Cambodia’s Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, said he was grateful for the new protection that would prevent marketers from slapping the name onto products which were not authentic.

“Kampot pepper is very famous so it is easily faked,” he told AFP, adding that hundreds of tons of pepper sold in the EU annually are falsely advertised as the Kampot strain.

Although most of the EU’s protected foods are produced inside member states, it has increasingly awarded the status further afield.

Some 20 non-EU products now have protected status, including Turkey’s Gazientep baklava pastries and India's Darjeeling tea.