Ceylon Black Pepper
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True Story: Sri Lanka

“We are unable to control customer complaints due to moisture related complications, infestation, adulteration and most importantly providing certificates for sterilization requirements in different world regions. Also, the firm unable to cater into the lucrative spice retail packaging business both locally and internationally where percentage of markup will be at high 30% to 40%”

Ethical Legend

1. What Is Black Pepper?

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) , well known as “king of Spice” is the most consumed spice throughout the world, taken from drupes of the plant. Most of the black pepper producing countries are comes under the “ developing country” category and processors/packers are in developed world asking more hygienic raw material from these countries.

Even today it is hardly to prepare value added product such as consumer pack to SME exporters in developing countries. Main reason not to by value added product from developing countries exporters is microbial contamination occurred such as Salmonella.

2. Why Sterilization?

Despite black pepper’s contribution to overall food sensorial properties, the main draw back not only for the black pepper but also some other spices are microbiological contamination.

Reduction of microbial number in spices through various treatments become a necessity considering possible changes that could occur during spices’ storage and application in food resulting in public health risk.

There are no avenues or methods to treat contaminants like E-coli and Salmonella if found in final products. Therefore, this has been a growing concern of USA and EU for the imports they make from developing countries where the sanitation is a luxury but a necessity.

3. How Contamination Occur?

The contamination may occur at any stage of processing such as harvesting, transportation and even during drying if the proper precaution measures are not taken.

There are no avenues or methods to treat contaminants like E-coli and Salmonella which occur during the processing. This basically happen due to human interaction with pepper which can be eliminated but those methods are costly.

4. What Are The Sterilization Methods Available?

Commonly used sterilization methods and description of the same are shown below. Steam SterilizationGamma IrradiationEtO (Ethylene Oxide).

Steam Sterilization– Steam sterilization is achieved by exposing the spices to be sterilized with saturated steam under pressure. Steam enhances the ability of heat to kill microorganisms of spices by reducing the time and temperature required to denature or coagulate proteins in the microorganisms. Color fading, reduce voltaic compound content and aroma deterioration is inevitable. 

Gamma Irradiation– Gamma radiation is a type of high-energy radiation that is different from x-rays. The gamma irradiation process uses Cobalt 60 radiation to kill microorganisms on a variety of different products in a specially designed cell. This method associate some issues such as with high cost, safety measures skillful employees and finally mistrust of consumers. 

EtO (Ethylene Oxide)– It is gas used mainly to sterilize medical instruments and treat spices. EtO exposure has been recorded to be associated with cancer of blood. This is not recommended by EU considering carcinogen residues but this method is accepted by USA. All the above methods associate high cost for machinery & skillful employees which are impeding factors to adopt and use those methods for developing country processors/exporters.

5. Is There Any Alternative Other Than Sterilization?

Yes. But it has to follow basic steps shown in below figure and this method is proven in Sri Lankan few exporters/processors and could be able to get through all required certifications and test reports requested by both EU & USA buyers.

6. How to Prepare Black Pepper to Penetrate EU & USA Markets

Black pepper processing can be summarized as below along with necessary machinery in order to follow the process for anyone who who wishes to start pepper processing. Receive Pepper Corn Step 01 Receive Pepper Corns

  • 1. Pepper Corns
  • 2. Pepper Seed Remover
  • 3. SS Hot Water Wash
  • 4. Bubble Water Washing Machine
  • 5. Dryer
  • 6. Cloves-and-Pepper-Cleaning-and-Grading-Machine
  • 7. Elevator
  • 8. Small-Destoner-Machine-for-Pepper-Herbs-Spices
  • 8. Black-Pepper-Gravity-Separator
  • 9. Processed Black Pepper
  • 10. Packing
  • 10. SS Pepper Grinder
  • 11. Black Pepper Powder

7. What Are The Machinery Used for Black Pepper Processing?

Machinery requirement for SME firm who wish to process black pepper is given in below table with their purpose.

Machine & EquipmentCapacityDay ProductionPurpose of Use
CratesAccessoryAccessoryTo transport raw materials
Pepper Thresher150Kg/Hour 1,600 KgTo thresh the pepper
Washing Plant200Kg/Batch1,600 KgTo wash with hot water of raw spices
RO Plant2000Lt/Day2,000 LtTo purify water/make TDS water
Water Tanks1,000Lt/5,000Lt60,00 LtTo use for washing
Bubble Washing25Kg/Batch1,600 KgTo wash with TDS water
Dryer- 1,000kg1000kg per batch1,000 KgTo dehydrate spices
Dryer -300kg x 2600kg per batch600 KgTo dehydrate spices
Pepper Cleaning Machine400Kh/Batch1,600 KgTo clean pepper
Inspection ConveyerAccessoryAccessoryTo move the raw material
De- stoner1000Kg/Batch3,000 KgTo remove adulterations in raw material
Gravity Separator400Kg/Hour3,200 KgTo grade spices according to weight
ElevatorAccessoryAccessoryTo move the raw material
Grinder/Crusher200Kg/Hour1,600 KgTo grind spices
Packing TableAccessoryAccessoryTo use for packing
Vacuum Pack4 pack/ Min1920To vacuum pack final products
Continuous Sealing MachineAccessoryAccessoryTo seal bulk packing
SS RacksAccessoryAccessoryTo store packed spices
The Machinery Used for Black Pepper Processing

About Author

The author of this article has been in the export industry for more than 15 years as a consultant in divers export related products and he is willing to share his hands on experience in the industry for the betterment of all parties involved including valuable consumers. Sharing is the caring future of the globe. He would love to share his hands on experience and industry secretes with us. Once his experience unfolded in written form, we would love to share them with our valuable readers who always motivate us to add good stuff for the site. The author is agreed to answer your issues pertaining to this article once a week since he is involving with a lot of projects. Do not miss this opportunity preset your issue with him free of charge. Just write to us or comment in the comment section with your mail address.

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