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 30s’ and 40s’.”

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 Sterilization
Gamma Irradiation
EtO (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 Penetrace EU & USA Markets

Black pepper processing can be summarized as below along with necessary machineries in order to follow the process for anyone who who wishes to start pepper processing.

Receive Pepper Corn

Step 01

Receive Pepper Corns

Seed Remover

Step 02

Seed Remover

Washing

Step 03

SS Hot Water Wash

Bubble Water Wash [TDS Water]

Drying

Step 04

Dryer

Cleaner

Step 05

Cleaner

Elevator

Step 06

Elevator

De-Stoner

Step 07

De-Stoner

Elevator

Step 08

Elevator

Gravity Separator

Step 09

Gravity Separator

Process Seeds

Step 10

Process Seed

Packing Processed Seeds

Step 10

Vacuum Packing of processed pepper seeds.

Packing Processed Seeds

Step 11

Packing Pepper Powder Processing

SS Grinder

Pepper Powder

Packing

7. What are the machineries 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 & Equipment Capacity Day Production Purpose of Use
Crates Accessory Accessory To transport raw materials
Pepper Thresher 150Kg/Hour  1,600 Kg To thresh the pepper
Washing Plant 200Kg/Batch 1,600 Kg To wash with hot water of raw spices
RO Plant 2000Lt/Day 2,000 Lt To purify water/make TDS water
Water Tanks 1,000Lt/5,000Lt 60,00 Lt To use for washing
Bubble Washing 25Kg/Batch 1,600 Kg To wash with TDS water
Dryer- 1,000kg 1000kg per batch 1,000 Kg To dehydrate spices
Dryer -300kg x 2 600kg per batch 600 Kg To dehydrate spices
Pepper Cleaning Machine 400Kh/Batch 1,600 Kg To clean pepper
Inspection Conveyer Accessory Accessory To move the raw material
De- stoner 1000Kg/Batch 3,000 Kg To remove adulterations in raw material
Gravity Separator 400Kg/Hour 3,200 Kg To grade spices according to weight
Elevator Accessory Accessory To move the raw material
Grinder/Crusher 200Kg/Hour 1,600 Kg To grind spices
Packing Table Accessory Accessory To use for packing
Vacuum Pack 4 pack/ Min 1920 To vacuum pack final products
Continuous Sealing Machine Accessory Accessory To seal bulk packing
SS Racks Accessory Accessory To store packed spices

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 lot of projects. Do not miss this opportunity preset your issue with him free of charge. Just write to us or comment with your mail address.

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