China has emerged as the global leader in both chili pepper production and consumption, as revealed by recent data unveiled at a conference on chili pepper industry development held within the country.
With an annual chili pepper planting area surpassing 30 million mu (2 million hectares), China has firmly established its dominance in this industry.
Statistics provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations demonstrate that from 2000 to 2021, over 30 percent of the world’s chili peppers were cultivated in China. This impressive output accounts for nearly half of the world’s total chili pepper production, firmly establishing China as the world’s top chili pepper producer.
“Chili peppers were initially introduced to China over 400 years ago for ornamental purposes. Since then, their diverse uses, including culinary and medicinal applications, have been discovered, leading to a corresponding expansion in planting scale,” noted Lin Qiao, an associate research fellow at the Agricultural Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).
The recent surge in the popularity of spicy cuisine has contributed to this success, with over 500 million Chinese citizens now enjoying spicy foods, according to Lin.
Moreover, China has established itself as a prominent exporter of chili peppers, both in dried and fresh forms. In 2022, the country’s chili pepper exports reached an impressive $1.7 billion, marking an 11.6 percent increase from the previous year. This export figure includes $1.56 billion for dried chili peppers (an 8.1 percent year-on-year increase) and $140 million for fresh peppers (a remarkable 71.2 percent surge from the previous year). The United States, Japan, and Spain were the top three destinations for China’s chili pepper exports.
Guizhou Province, located in Southwest China and an early adopter of chili peppers in its cuisine, maintains an annual chili pepper planting area exceeding 5 million mu, representing about one-sixth of the national total. It holds the distinction of being the largest chili pepper producer in China.
In recent years, Guizhou has not only sustained its chili pepper planting area but has also invested in infrastructure development and promoted green, high-quality, and high-efficiency production techniques. According to Bu Tao, Deputy Head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Guizhou, this year’s chili pepper planting area in the province will reach 5.2 million mu, with an anticipated chili pepper output of 7.7 million tonnes. The estimated value of chili pepper planting and processing is set to surpass 30 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) and 16 billion yuan, respectively. Guizhou remains the national leader in chili pepper production and sales.
Apart from Guizhou, provinces such as Henan, Yunnan, Hunan, Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia are significant chili pepper producers in China. Together, they account for more than 10 million mu of chili pepper planting area, about one-third of the national total.
Wang Lihao, a scientist at CAAS, revealed that chili peppers are now grown in 28 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities across China. In the past decade, the planting area has expanded by approximately 30 percent, driving the continuous expansion of the chili pepper industry.
The chili pepper industry has not only enriched the livelihoods of farmers but has also boosted the overall economy in various regions of China. For example, Kailu county in Inner Mongolia, the largest county in terms of red chili pepper planting area, consistently maintains an annual planting area exceeding 600,000 mu. The county’s average annual red chili pepper output reaches a staggering 1.5 billion kilograms, according to an official with the county’s agricultural and animal husbandry bureau.
The flourishing chili pepper industry in Kailu county has directly benefited 60,000 farming households engaged in red chili pepper cultivation, while over 50,000 individuals participate in various aspects of the chili pepper sector’s industrial chain. This generates an annual labor income of 360 million yuan, providing substantial economic support to local communities.
Lin Qiao emphasized, “The chili pepper industry plays a pivotal role in the agricultural economy. As the industrial chain extends from planting and seed production to primary processing and deep processing, the added value of chili pepper products continues to rise, expanding income opportunities for farmers.”
To further promote local industrial development, more than 70 villages and townships across China have been chosen for the “one village, one product” project, focusing on the chili pepper industry.
Lin highlighted the active role played by the chili pepper sector in driving local agricultural economic growth and solidifying the achievements of poverty alleviation efforts.