Sichuan peppercorns, a spice commonly used in Chinese cuisine to produce a “numbing and spicy” flavor, is winning the hearts of ever more gourmets and seeing its price rise. Wen Decang, 56, is a peppercorn farmer in Tianshui City of Gansu Province — a major growing area of the plant. He turned his entire hectare of wheat into an area to grow Sichuan peppercorns 18 years ago, hearing that the crop could be sold at a good price…Full Article: Xinhua Feb 2018

Key Points

  • As of February 2018, Sichuan Province reportedly grew Sichuan peppercorn on ~266,667 hectares and hoped to increase its acreage to ~400,000 ha by 2020.
  • In 2017, the average price of Sichuan peppercorn in Sichuan Province was usually above CNY 100 (~USD 14.25) per kg.
  • Since 2014, according to a farmer from Tianshui, Gansu Province, a well-known area for growing red/green Sichuan peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn prices have steadily risen. In Tianshui, the spice is typically harvested during July and sundried before being sold. Its top markets are Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality. According to a restaurant chef from Lanzhou, Gansu Province, a hotpot restaurant with at least 100 tables can consume approximately 150 kg of Sichuan peppercorn per month.

ChinaAg Comments

  • Sichuan pepper, aka Sichuan peppercorn (Zanthoxylum spp.), is a spice native to Sichuan Province that is used in a variety of Chinese dishes and as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In Sichuan, the spice is primarily harvested during August and September.
  • In November 2017, it was reported that by 2022 China hoped to have an annual Sichuan peppercorn (dried) output of 300,000 MTs, with  ~400,000 hectares under cultivation. During this month, in the U.S. market, Sichuan peppers retailed for USD 2.99 per 5.6 gram bag.
  • In 2016, Sichuan Province cultivated Sichuan peppercorn (花椒) on approximately 282,000 hectares and had an annual output of ~60,000 MTs. The Sichuan market alone consumed 60% to 70% of its domestic production.
  • In 2005, the USDA lifted its ban on Sichuan peppercorn. The heat treatment requirement was reportedly shelved shortly thereafter.
  • From October 2002 to September 2003, USDA-APHIS confiscated nearly 11,000 lbs. (~5 MTs) of Sichuan peppercorn. Only Sichuan peppercorn that had undergone verified heat treatment (i.e. ~140 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy potential canker bacteria) could be imported.
  • From October 2001 to September 2002, USDA-APHIS confiscated 7,000 lbs. (~3.1 MTs) of Sichuan peppercorn.
  • In 1968, the USDA instituted a ban on Chinese citrus due to concern of the spread of citrus canker bacterial disease. The ban included Sichuan peppercorn since it is part of the citrus family. The ban would not effectively be enforced until 2002.

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