CHAPTER 2 : Strateqies To Improve The Qualitv Of Black
Pepper Cultivated In Kerala
Black pepper (Piper nigrurn Linn.), the king of spices is the world's most important
spice. This spice is the prime dollar-earning crop to lndia fetching an annual export of
Rs.41651- million to the country (Rajan and Sarma, 2000), which is about 70% of the total
earnings from spices to the national economy. Black pepper is cultivated in approximately
2,00,000 ha in lndia with annual production of about 50,000 MT. This accounts for more
than 50% of world's area of pepper cultivation, but contributes only around 25% of global
production. Though lndia had a pre-eminent position during the 1950's by meeting 80% of
world's supply of black pepper, the export has now dwindled to less than 33% as a result
of stiff competition from newly emerged pepper producing countries such as Indonesia,
Malaysia, Brazil and Vietnam (Senthikumara and Vadivel, 2000; Thomas eta/., 2002).
Black pepper is obtained from the plant Piper nigium Linn. White pepper and
green pepper are also developed as high commercial value products (Sudarshan, 2000)
in addition to a number of different value added products (Appendix IV).
Black pepper contains an array of phytochemicals. Volatile oil, oleoresin and
piperine are the important products of high commercial value extracted from pepper.
Accountability for the bioactive property of these extracts is due to the action of these
chemical principles. List of various chemical compounds present in black pepper is given
in Appendix V.
Piper nigrurn Linn. is believed to have originated in the evergreen forests of
Western Ghats of Peninsular lndia (Kandiannan, 2000). Out of more than 70 different
cultivars that are cultivated in Kerala Panniyur I is considered to be the most outstanding
one (Nybe et a/., 1999). However Karimunda, Narayakodi, Kuthiravali,
Cheriyakaniyakkadan, Kumbhakodi, Karivilanchi, Perumkodi, Kalluvalli, Balankotta and
Uthirankotta are also predominant in the State (Gangadharan, 1998a). Appendix VI
represents cultivar diversity of black pepper in lndia.
Black pepper is traded under Agmark in the name of pepper grades. Standard grades
prescribed under the provisions of Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act 1937
are as follows
I Garbled Pepper - Tellichery Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB)
Tellichery Garbled Extra Bold (TGEB)
Tellichery Garbled (TG)
Malabar Garbled (MG-1 and MG-2)
II Ungarbled Pepper - Malabar Ungarbled (MUG-1 and MUG-2)
Ill Light Pepper - Garbled Light (GL-Special, GL-1 and GL-2)
Ungarbled Light (UGL Special, UGL-1 and UGL-2)
IV Pinheads - Pinheads (PH Special and PH-1)
Around 90% of the total export is of Malabar Garbled grade. Common
internationally reputed grades other than MG-1 are Lampong, Sarawak and Brazil named
after the country of origin. Agrnark grades are based on physical characters only, like size
of the berries and presence or absence of contaminants. The factors that decide these
properties are the stage of harvest and post-harvest processing other than, the cultivar
and agronomic practices.
The post-harvest processing of black pepper comprise threshing, blanching,
drying, cleaning, grading, and packaging. Each step is important: but drying is the most
crucial step for attaining quality and storage life. Open sun drying method is prevailing in
Kerala. Mechanical drying, electrical drying, and solar drying are in limited use.
Harvesting of pepper is done by manual picking of spikes containing unripe, but
mature berries. Appearance of red or yellow colour in any of the berries of a spike
indicates optimum maturity of that spike. For the production of black pepper, harvesting is
done at this stage, while fully ripe berries are apt for white pepper production.
Govindarajan (1977) reported that the practice (harvest at maturity) has been changed
and the harvesting is done at different stages of maturity to meet specific requirement of
end product. Harvested spikes are usually kept undisturbed for 24 hours or two days to
ease threshing. In threshing spikes are put together and trampled under the foot to
,.-. .-.- .-. .- -- separate the berries. Remarkable investigations on threshing, &'hi'e&d 'for $epper
have been made (Ismall, 1984; Madasami and Godandapani, 1 8?) The ftweshed berrie 1 / \ \ are subjected to 'blanching', i.e. they are dipped in boiling
These are then dried. In open sun drying method drying
depending upon the climatic conditions (Krishnamurthy, et a/., 1993). Dried berries are
collected and cleaned. The common method of cleaning is winnowing. Various types of
'cleaners' have been developed to do this process (Madasami and Godandapani, 1996).
The dried and cleaned product is stored in gunny bags for marketing.
Traditional methods of pepper processing and post-harvest operations have a lot
of problems. Unhygienic techniques and mishandling of the crops most often leads to
contamination and low quality produce (Mamrnootti, 1999). It has been reported that open
drying of berries results in contamination by dust, bits of reeds, stalks, bird droppings etc.
(Sreekumar, 2001). Moreover as the drying period prolongs there is chance of microbial
contamination. The delay in drying time and degree of microbial contamination can easily
affect the aroma quality though no great changes may occur in the physico-chemical
characteristics (Govindarajan. 1976). Generally farmers dry pepper only to a moisture
level of 16-18% instead of the standard 11-12%. Quite often, the produce supplied by the
farmers is not properly dried, cleaned, graded or packed according to recommended
Pepper drying can also be done using solar dryers, but prevailing solar dryers
have limitations. Considerable studies have been conducted by Shukla and Patil (1992)
on various dryers and drying technologies for food crops. They suggested that in black
pepper, lot of importance is given on the glossy finish. However pepper is grown in coastal
region, where quality deterioration due to fungus on dried product is quite evident.
Intensive research on drying principles and dryers has been carried out in India (Patil,
1989; Palaniappan, 2000).
Hot air drying of pepper developed in Sri Lanka is also recognized as outstanding
method (Abeysinghe, 1982). In this method berries are dried in a hot air dryer at 110-
117F after blanching for 2-3 minutes, until all the moisture is removed. Various drying
methods including artificial and solar drying prevail in Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and Sri
Lanka (Jacob et a/., 1985). However specific studies on black pepper drying for quality
improvement are lacking.
The foremost value of pepper is its flavour, aroma and pungency. The quality is
attributed by its volatile oil, oleoresin and piperine in general. Moisture content and level of
physical contaminants are also important while analysing export quality. According to
Pruthi (1993) the alkaloid piperine is considered to be the major constituent responsible
for the biting taste of black pepper. Retention of piperine, volatile oil and oleoresin is the
prime criteria to be conceived while drying. In this investigation, the quality retention of
pepper following the conventional post-harvest processing and solar tunnel drying is
assessed. An extensive survey of pepper cultivation in Kerala and the quality of the
commercial product is also conducted.
2.2 Materials and Methods
2.2.1 Taxonomy of P i ~ e r niarum Linn.
Division : Angiospermae
Class : Dicotyledons
Sub-class : Monochlamydeae
Series : Micrembryae
Family : Piperaceae
Genus : Piper
Species : nignlm
Origin of the species : Evergreen forests of South-Western ghats of lndia
Habitat :Moist parts of Southern India (North Kanara to
Kanyakumari), Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Brazil,
Vietnam and some other tropical countries
Habit : Climbing perennial shrub with five different types of
branching. Branches stout, trailing and rooting at the nodes;
leaves entire, variable in breadth, sometimes glaucous
beneath, base acute, rounded or cordate, equal or unequal;
flowers minute in spikes, usually dioecious but the female
bears two anthers, and the male, a pistillode; fruiting spikes
variable in length and robustness, rachis glabrous, fruits
ovoid or globose, bright red when ripe, seeds usually
globose, testa thin, albumin hard.
Climate : Humid tropical climate (Relative humidity - above 50%)
with adequate rainfall and tempsrature (10-40C)
Soil : Clayey loam, red loam, sandy loam and laterite soils with pH
4.5 - 6
Distribution in lndia : (1) Coastal and midland area where pepper is grown as
(2) Hilly regions of Western Ghats
(3) High altitudes (intercrop with coffee and cardamom)
(4) As a mixed crop with areca in plains
(5) Malanadu areas of Karnataka
Flowering season : June - August
Pollination : Geitonogamy aided by rainwater and dew drops
Harvesting season : Plains - November to January, Hills -January to March
Morphology of the useful part . Fruit