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Pepper Production


Pepper comes from several species of a vinous plant, the spice being the fruit, called peppercorns. Black pepper is the dried, unripe berry. The corns are wrinkled and spherical, about 5 mm (1/8 in) in diameter. Malabar and Tellicherry pepper are both considered top quality due to size and maturity, with only 10% of the largest corns being graded as Tellicherry.

White pepper starts out the same as the black, but are allowed to ripen more fully on the vine. The outer shell is then removed by soaking the berries in water until the shell falls off, or are held under flowing spring water, yielding a whiter, cleaner pepper.

Green peppercorns are from the same fruit as black and white peppercorns, but are harvested before they mature. Instead of being dried in the sun, they are quickly dehydrated so that they retain their bright green colour and mildly spicy flavour.

Green peppercorns are also packed fresh in brine to preserve them without drying. The Moulin family of France hand-selects and sorts Madagascar-grown green peppercorns, preserves them in saltwater brine, and then packs them in a distinctive green, black and white can. These soft green peppercorns are common in French cooking, and are most famously used in steak au poivre.Dehydrated green peppercorns are easy substituted for peppercorns in brine, or pickled peppercorns, by re-hydrating them in liquid one hour before use. Warm water works well, but wine, broth, or any other liquid can just as easily be used.

Pink pepper, which is not a vinous pepper, comes from the French island of Reunion. Pink peppercorns have a brittle, papery pink skin enclosing a hard, irregular seed, much smaller than the whole fruit.


Land preparation

For pepper production, proper tillage is crucial for adequate soil management and optimal yields. Land preparation should involve enough tillage operations to make the soil suitable for seedling (or transplant) establishment and to provide the best soil structure for root growth and development. The extent to which the root systems of pepper plants develop is influenced by the soil profile. Root growth will be restricted if there is a hard pan, compacted layer or heavy clay zone. Peppers are considered to be moderately deep rooted and, under favourable conditions, roots will grow to a depth of 36 to 48 inches. But the majority of roots will be in the upper 12 to 24 inches of soil. Since root development is severely limited by compacted soil, proper land preparation should eliminate or significantly reduce soil compaction and hard pans. Tillage systems using the mouldboard (“bottom”) plough prepare the greatest soil volume conducive to vigorous root growth. This allows more extensive root systems to develop, which can more efficiently access nutrients and water in the soil. Disking after mouldboard ploughing tends to re-compact the soil and should be avoided. Compaction pans are present in many soils. They are formed principally by machinery and, when present, are normally located at or just below plough depths. Even though compaction pans may be only a few inches thick, their inhibitory effects on root growth can significantly reduce pepper yields. If a compaction pan exists just below or near mouldboard plough depth, this hard pan can be disrupted by subsoiling to a depth of 16 to 18 inches to allow the development of a more extensive root system. Subsoiling also helps increase water infiltration. If there is an abundance of plants or plant residues on the soil surface, mowing followed by disking is usually advised prior to mouldboard ploughing. Immediately prior to mulch installation or transplanting, do final soil preparation and/or bedding with a rotary tiller, bedding disc or a double disc hiller in combination with a bedding press or levelling board. This provides a crust less, weed free soil for the installation of plastic mulch or the establishment of transplants. Peppers are usually transplanted into plastic mulch on raised beds. A raised bed will warm up more quickly in the spring and therefore may enhance earlier growth. Since peppers do poorly in excessively wet soils, a raised bed improves drainage and helps prevent water logging in low areas or poorly drained soils. Raised beds are generally 3 to 8 inches high. Keep in mind, however, that peppers planted on raised beds may also require more irrigation during drought conditions. file:///C:/Users/TRW/Downloads/B1309%20(1).pdf


 Climatic and Soil requirements

Climate is one of the most important factors when determining planting times. Production of a pepper crop depends on the length of a growing season with optimal temperatures. The plant itself stops growing at temperatures below 10° – 12°C, and at 6°C, the leaves can die and flower abortion will start. The same will happen when temperatures increase to over 35°C. A pepper crop requires very stable temperature ranges with minimums and maximums not being too far apart. Temperature variation might result in poor fruit quality or reduced yields. Optimum temperatures would be:

  • Day time: 25 – 28°C
  • Night time: 16 – 18°C

This would also be the ideal temperatures for growing under protection. Long periods of overcast weather can also result in poor fruit set and loss of a crop. Hot peppers can withstand higher temperatures than sweet peppers. Pepper thrives well in warm climate. It requires well drained silt or clay loam and favourable climatic condition. Avoid planting on water logged and alkaline soils. Pepper also grows well on highly nutritive soil with optimum soil moisture. Pepper is a tropical plant and cannot tolerate frost. It will not grow where the temperature drops below 12 °C. A moderate winter climate is essential. Pepper plants need about 2000 mm rain annually. In South Africa the rainfall must be supplemented by irrigation. The soil should have a good structure and water-holding capacity. Drainage must be good to prevent root rot. It requires a pH of 5.5 to 6.0 and a high humus content is advantageous. The red dolerite soils of KwaZulu-Natal and the red andesite soils of the Soutpansberg are best for growing pepper plants.



There are wide varieties of pepper all over the world but many of them are produced based on regions and environmental conditions. Varieties commonly produced in Nigeria include:

Bird peppers—Atawere (Capsicum frutescens)

This is a very hot variety of pepper; it is short in length.  Both ripe and unripe bird peppers are used for making pepper sauces. It is used while unripe, usually still green in colour for preparing pepper sauce for unpolished rice (locally known as ofada rice). The sauce is richly garnished with locust beans.


Cayenne pepper or red pepper—Sombo (Capsicum frutescens)   

This is a very long and thin variety. It is a bit mild as regards to its hotness.


Atarodo (Capsicum annum)

This is the most common pepper variety in the market. The smaller sized ones taste more hot than the bigger sized ones.


Tatase (Capsicum annum)

This pepper variety is usually very mild in taste and very red in colour. It could be added to food or sauce as a colouring agent to bring out a bright red colour and sometimes to reduce hotness.

Sources of Pepper seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: Their Whole Seed Catalog is a stunning dream machine that transforms cold winter days into the stuff of summer produce and bounty. We are keen on the very nice selection of sweet and hot chili peppers; but their offerings are so much broader than the capsicums.

Chile Pepper Institute: An organization dedicated to research and education in areas related to chili peppers. CPI is associated with New Mexico State University. Among their many offerings, we find them to have a nice selection of chili pepper seeds. If you are a member, you also receive a newsletter and other member benefits.

Cross Country Nursery: Offer plants and seeds. We’ve ordered both. Have 500 varieties of chili peppers as well as huge varieties of tomatoes and eggplants. If you have questions, they have answers and have helped us diagnose issues with our plants and offered cultivation help. Wonderful resource. Get their print catalog. You’ll refer to it often for descriptions and for the handy table that summarizes their chili pepper offerings.

J.L. Hudson, Seedsman: Public Access Seed Bank established 1911 – relevant then, so relevant today – source for heirloom seeds from around the world – get the print catalog; the pages will be dog-eared and scribbled with notes, then you’ll have to decide, “Can I really plant all those seeds?”

Johnny’s Selected Seeds: Seeds and so much more! Garden supplies and equipment, innovative techniques for hoop houses, planting calculators

Kitazawa Seed Company: This company specializes in Asian vegetable seeds, which include some exotic chili pepper varieties. We rely on Kitazawa as a source of these hard-to-find varieties.

Pepper Gal: Hard-to-find seeds are, well, hard-to-find. When you look, can’t find, and keep looking, you discover new sources. Such is the case with Pepper Gal. We couldn’t find a particular variety and kept searching when we finally found it here. Worth having as one of your sources for seeds.

Pepper Joe: Excellent selection of super-hot, habanero, jalapeno, cayenne and other chili peppers. Also have tomatoes. On-line and print catalog available.

Puckerbutt Pepper Company: Founded by Ed Currie, the creator of the world’s hottest chili pepper, the Carolina Reaper (HP22B), the company offers a wide variety of chili pepper seeds and chili products.

Refining Fire Chiles: If it’s chili pepper seeds you want, Jim Duffy and his Refining Fire is one place you need to bookmark. Fast service, wide variety from mild to wild.

Semillas La Palma: One of the largest collection of chili pepper seeds we have found. Located in the Canary Islands, but they ship worldwide. We’ve found seeds suggested by our customers that were not available from any other source. Great on-line catalog.

Territorial Seed Company: Little bit of everything – vegetables, flowers, equipment, supplies – nice print catalog, too!

Trade Winds Fruit: These folks have a remarkable selection of hard-to-find chili pepper seeds along with other rare seeds. When looking to fill out our planting plan, we discovered that TWF was the only purveyor that had some of our gotta haves.


The earliest period for seedling establishment would be when the soil and air temperatures at least meet the minimum requirements for plant growth. The latest seedling establishment period would be after allowance has been made for the growth and harvest periods to be completed before adverse conditions sets in.

Planting is usually by means of cuttings and cuttings are rooted in moist beds and transplanted into the land after a period of 9 months. One or two leaf cuttings are taken only from secondary runners during September. It requires a row spacing of 3 m x 2 m to produce a population stands of 1666 plants/ha. The soil used for raising nursery should be rich, well- drained and free of diseases and insect pest. Make seed beds with topsoil mixed with compost (30 x 45 x 8 cm) on nursery beds or trays. Leave an upper space of about 20cm for watering while using trays. Beds should be about 1meter long with an inter-row space of about 1m also. Water the beds about 14hours before sowing. Make drills of 5-10 cm apart across the bed and sow about 100 seeds per drill. Cover lightly. Thin the seedlings to 1 per 2.5cm of drill 15–20 days after sowing. Alternately holes can be made at 4 x 4 cm apart on the bed and 3–4 seeds dropped in each hole. The seedlings are later thinned to one per hole. Similarly, seeds can also be drilled or planted in specific spacing (4 cm x 4 cm) in the tray


Management Practices

Weed control

In pepper production certain factors may influence yields negatively. These factors could include insect infestations, and fungal or bacterial infections. Weeds also contribute as a yield restricting factor. Firstly, weeds compete directly with the crop for moisture and nutrients available in the soil. Weeds could also be a host for various pests and diseases. It is also known that some weeds have the ability to produce enzymes that reduce plant growth in some crops. Capsicums are very sensitive to weed competition, particularly12 to 48 days after transplant. Problems occurring during this stage could severely affect the yield. Therefore, it is crucially important to control weeds at this stage. The best and most effective way to control weeds would be material that allows sunlight to enter the structure and then converting the trapped solar energy to heat, thus providing increased temperatures for continued production. In advanced structures, humidity and even light can be controlled to ensure maximum crop yields.



During the production of sweet and hot peppers, correct fertilization is the single most important factor that determines the success of a crop. With good management practices these crops could be produced under a wide range of different conditions, however some growing conditions are more favourable than others. In order to calculate the correct nutrient requirement, the following aspects need to be available and taken into consideration:

  • Nutrient withdrawal figures
  • Fertilizer used in the past on the specific area intended to be planted
  • Soil type
  • Soil analyses
  • Soil Acidity (pH)
  • Quality of irrigation water
  • Micro element


Fertilization guideline

The ideal soil analyses or soil status for sweet and hot pepper production should be:

  • pH (H2O): 5.6 – 6.8
  • P: 30 – 60 mg/Kg (Bray1)
  • K: 100 – 250 mg/Kg
  • Ca: 300 – 2000 mg/Kg
  • Mg: 120 – 300 mg/Kg
  • Na: 10 – 50 mg/Kg



The supply of adequate water to the roots of a pepper plant is critical. Under- or over irrigation can have a devastating effect on the outcome of the crop. It is therefore very important to apply water at optimal times. More frequent light irrigations are needed on sandy soils. Higher applications with longer intervals will be needed on clay soils.

Too little water might lead to:

  • Sub-optimum yields.
  • Decrease in the photosynthetic rate.
  • Plants developing stunted growth.
  • No production of flowers.
  • Low percentage fruit set.
  • Slow fruit development.
  • Small fruit sizes.
  • Poor quality.
  • Flower abortion.

Too much water might lead to:

  • Not enough oxygen in the soil.
  • Plants becoming wilted.
  • Root diseases becoming prevalent.
  • Stunted plant development.

When scheduling irrigation, the size of the root system at the time of irrigation needs to be taken into account. In general, the root system can be compared to the aerial growth of the plant. The roots spread into the soil at a similar rate to which the aerial growth develops. Most pepper roots occur in the top 500 – 600 mm of soil level, even at maturity. For this reason, irrigation should be monitored at this level with irrometers. Deep, thorough irrigations are preferable to light and regular watering intervals. Drip or flood irrigation is preferable to overhead irrigation, due to susceptibility to foliar diseases. The amounts of water used will vary depending on the climatic conditions. During the cooler months’ peppers require about 25mm per week and this might increase to 50mm under very hot, windy and dry conditions. For irrigation purposes, the growth of peppers can be divided into four growth stages.

Stage 1:

  • Establishment Can last up to 2 weeks.
  • Seedling establishment takes place and plants start to grow actively.
  • Low amounts of water are used.
  • After seedling establishment to just before first flower, it is highly recommended (although a fine line of management) to reduce water drastically. It will force the roots to grow aggressively deeper into the soil looking for moist. This will help the plants at fruit set stage to handle difficult and stress related periods better due to the increased roots.

Stage 2:

  • Vegetative growth
  • Development of first flowers and fruit.
  • Double the amount of water is used compared to the previous stage.

Stage 3:

  • Fruit set Growth is at its highest.
  • Water usage at this stage is at its highest during the lifespan of the crop.

Stage 4:

  • Ripening and harvesting.
  • Very high loads carried on the plant.
  • Water usage starts to decrease.



Pepper plants grown in a greenhouse are normally trained to two stems and need good support from an overhead trellising system due to the brittleness of their stems. The first training of the stems is done one month after transplanting and will continue every other week, depending of the growth rate. This type of training system allows for better light penetration, but if more light is available, more stems per plant may be considered. A maximum of up to four stems are used. One fruit should set for every two leaves the plant produces and flowers are allowed to set after the lateral branches have produced four leaf axils after the fork. The first flower produced by the immature transplant should always be removed so as not to inhibit future growth. Scissors or finger tips can be used to remove the desired shoots. Smaller wounds will heal faster. A disinfectant should be used to prevent the spread of disease. If too many stems are allowed to develop, energy is used in developing the multiple growing tips and fruit production may be slowed. More stems will however result in more, smaller fruit, produced increasingly later in the season. Fewer stems will produce fewer, though larger, fruit, and the plant will take less space. More compact type peppers do not require pruning, as they are mainly grown in open field which would result in less vegetative growth and an increase in sunburn damage to the fruits. Topping the plants around 30 days before the first frost will give every fruit that has set an opportunity to mature, as the removal of the growing tips will direct all sugar produced by the plant to the fruit.

Types of fertilizers and requirements

That depends on how developed the plants are. When it comes to fertilizing peppers, moderation is the key. You should usually not fertilize pepper plants the first few weeks after transplanting them, especially with fertilizer containing higher levels of nitrogen. This may cause an overabundance of green growth and very little fruit production. You can put down fertilizer in your garden or container a couple of weeks before transplanting the pepper plants. After the plants produce blossoms, it’s OK to fertilize them.

Several different types of fertilizers work well for peppers. Most stores that have large garden departments will carry the appropriate fertilizers. Pay attention to the 3 number code on the bag of fertilizer. These three numbers indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium that are contained in that particular fertilizer, respectively. For instance, a 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphate and 10% potassium. A 5-10-10 bag would contain 5% percent nitrogen. A 10-5-10 bag would contain 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphate and 10% potassium.

When fertilizing your peppers, look for 5-10-10 fertilizer. This contains half as much nitrogen as phosphate and potassium. A higher phosphate and potassium number will encourage more fruit production. A lower nitrogen number will help the plant grow, without doing it at the expense of producing fruit.

Most granular fertilizers are applied at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet. When fertilizing peppers with a granular type fertilizer, avoid letting the granules touch the plants. This may burn the plant and or have other adverse consequences. Instead, apply the granular fertilizer in a circle around the plants and water it in well.

If you are using a water soluble fertilizer (the kind you dissolve in water and then spray on your garden), try to avoid spraying the fertilizer on tops of the plants. Wet leaves, branches, blossoms and fruit are more likely to develop diseases. It’s better to concentrate your efforts at the base of the plant.

After fertilizing peppers, it’s a good idea to apply a layer of mulch around the plants. Grass clippings, chopped up leaves, hay, etc… work well for mulch. Applying a layer of mulch will prevent the evaporation of moisture from the soil. It will also help control weeds. At the end of the growing season, you can till the mulch into the garden and it will add nutrients to the soil during the winter. Mulch is not usually necessary in container gardens.

Pest Management

Weed control can be achieved with herbicides, plastic mulch, and a good crop-rotation system. Several pre-plant and post-emergence herbicides are available for peppers, depending on the specific weed problem and pepper growth stage. If infestation levels are mild, early cultivation can minimize weed problems.

Insects are a major problem in pepper production. Aphids, flea beetles, pepper maggots, thrips, and European corn borers can all cause crop losses. Monitoring insect populations with traps and scouting will help you determine when you should use pesticides and how often you should spray.

Several pepper diseases can cause crop losses, including bacterial leaf spot, phytophora blight, anthracnose fruit rot, and bacterial soft rot, and viruses such as potato virus y, and tobacco mosaic virus. These diseases can be controlled by using disease-resistant varieties and by having a good crop rotation system and soils with good air and water infiltration.

Many of the pesticides required for pepper production are restricted-use pesticides and require a pesticide license to purchase. Pesticide applicators tests are usually administered at county extension offices, so you should contact your local office for dates and times of these examinations. When using any pesticides in your enterprise, remember to follow all label recommendations regarding application rates and personal protection equipment (PPE) requirements. Also remember that any Worker Protection Standards (WPS) apply to the owner as well as to employees.


Harvesting and Storage


Factors such as nutrients, climate, temperatures, management and logistics play an important role in the general holding ability of peppers. New generation peppers varieties have been developed, due to breeding efforts over a period of years, to possess better firmness, holding ability and shelf life. All this is useless information if a crop of peppers is not picked at the right stage, distances to the markets are not taken into consideration and the cold chain is broken (constant temperature range in which the crop is transported to its destiny). The farmer must always bear in mind that quality is profitability. The qualities that attention should be paid to include: pack-out, uniformity, fruit shape, ripening ability, firmness and flavour. The specific characteristic required will depend on the market requirements, as dictated by the packer, shipper, wholesaler, retailer and consumer. Sweet peppers are mainly marketed in the green stage. All Capsicum types will be green in this stage and only once fully matured will turn colour to its genetic background. There are various colours on the market available, but the main ones would be red, yellow and orange. In the green stage the pepper is not matured and shelf life is expected to be much longer. Shelf life in the coloured stage is highly vulnerable to the fruit being fully matured. The fruit size of a pepper rarely indicates the maturity stage as some varieties are genetically larger in size than others. As an indication of when peppers should be harvested in the green stage the firmness of the fruit plays an important role. Coloured peppers are normally harvested at colour break stage. This will give sufficient time to get the product to the desired market depending on the distance etc.

Green Stage: The pepper fruit is still green and when picked at this stage, will most probably last up to a maximum of two weeks in cold storage. Internally and externally fruits are very hard and crispy. This is the main segment in which the product is marketed.

Colour Breaker Stage: These are the stages just before the pepper turns to its full genetic colour. Internally the pepper has already started to colour. On the outside one could clearly see blotches of the green fruit starting to colour. In South Africa this is the most common stage to pick coloured peppers as some farms are far away from the national markets. Fruit colouring to the full ripe stage will happen during the transportation process, or if temperatures are low it will colour on the market. Colouring of the fruit will start around the side mostly exposed to the sun. Fruit at this stage should be stored at 16-21°C.

Ripe to Full Ripe Stage: Worldwide this is the stage where consumers buy coloured peppers. This stage gives the best colour and taste. Potentially this is the stage where the highest sugar content could be expected. This is measured with a refractometer and is expressed as brix %. Fruit at this stage should be stored at 13- 18°C and 90 – 95% relative humidity. At this stage of ripening one can expect 6 % brix. Peppers are sensitive to cold and should not be stored below 13˚C.Peppers are sensitive to ethylene (ripening hormone) and should not be stored with fruit that produce ethylene, such as bananas, avocados, and kiwi fruit.



Pepper can be dried and stored in sacks. Dried pepper has a longer shelf life than fresh pepper. Dried pepper can be further processed by grounding it into powdery form. This powdered pepper can be easily added to food, whether during or after cooking. Fresh pepper can also be stored in the house in a cool dry place for about a week.



Abiotic constraints pertaining to the climate (drought, flooding, strong winds, extreme temperature and sunlight) and to the soil (moisture and nutrients content) may add up to biotic constraints and lead plants to stress and undergo anatomical and physiological disorders that reduce yield (Jackson, 1986). Unfavourable climate may pose a major constraint to high yield.



By definition, ‘processing’ does not involve harvesting. However, one cannot produce a good product from badly harvested materials. Correct harvesting techniques could be said to be the most important factor in the production of a high quality final product. The main problem is immature harvesting.

Immature harvesting

The main reasons for immature harvesting is the fear of theft. If the crop is picked correctly when it is mature the higher yields and higher value of the final product may offset the losses due to theft.

Through extension officers, correct harvesting should be encouraged.

However sometimes immature pepper receives a higher price than mature pepper due to purchase by food processors due to its higher percentage of flavour components.

The pepper spike should be picked when one or more of the berries start going yellow/orange. The berries should be hard to the touch.



In most countries the harvested pepper berries are removed from the spikes before drying. This can be done by hand, beating with sticks or trampling on the pepper spikes.


A clean product is essential. The major problem for the export of pepper by small-scale farmers is the production of a sufficiently clean product.

The first step is to remove dust, dirt and stones using a winnowing basket, see Figure 1. This can be done in the same way as for rice. Someone used to this work can remove the dirt, dust and stone quickly and efficiently (they can clean over 100kg of pepper in an eight-hour day).

Figure 1: A cabinet dryer

There are machines that can be bought or made that can remove the dust, dirt and stones. However, for a small-scale unit, winnowing the crop by hand is the most appropriate system.

After winnowing the crop needs to be washed in water, for quantities of up to 50kg a day, all that is needed is two or three 15 litre plastic buckets. The crop should be washed by hand and drained two or three times. For larger quantities a 1m³ sink/basin with a plug hole needs to be constructed. This can be made out of concrete. However, the water must be changed regularly to prevent recontamination by dirty water. Only potable water should be used.

The pepper berries can be blanched before drying by dipping them in boiling water for ten minutes. This accelerates the drying and browning of the berries. However, the fuel costs may be prohibitive.



This is by far the most important section in the process. The inability to adequately dry the produce will, at the very least, slow down the whole process and possibly lead to mould growth. Any pepper with even a trace of mould cannot be used for processing. The sale value of mouldy pepper can be less than 50% the normal value. In extreme cases, the whole crop can be lost. To get the full black colour of dried pepper it needs to be dried in direct sunshine. This can be achieved by sun drying, solar drying or in a combined solar and wood burning drier.

Figure 2: ‘Exell Solar Dryer’

During the dry season, sun drying is usually adequate to dry the produce. The simplest and cheapest method is to lay the produce on mats in the sun. However, there are problems associated with this method. Dust and dirt are blown onto the crop and unexpected rain storms can re-wet the crop.

A solar dryer avoids these problems. The simplest type is the cabinet solar dryer, see Figure 1, which can be constructed out of locally available materials (eg bamboo, coir fibre or nylon weave).

For larger units (over 30kg/day) an ‘Exell Solar Dryer’ could be used, see Figure 2. However, the construction costs are greater and a full financial evaluation should therefore be made to ensure that a higher income from better quality spices can justify the additional expense.

During the wet season or times of high humidity, which often coincides with the harvest of the spices, a solar dryer or sun drying can not be used effectively.

An artificial dryer, which uses a cheap energy source is necessary. This may be a wood or husk burning dryer or a combined wood burning and solar dryer. Figures 3-6 show a combined wood burning and solar drier which is based on the McDowell Dryer and has been used in Sri Lanka.

Figure 3: Combination wood and solar dryer, complete with solar cover

Figure 4: Wood burner and chimney

Figure 5: The food trays

Figure 6: The drying cabinet

Over drying

Care needs to be taken to prevent over drying of the crops which results in the loss of flavour components. A drier operator will soon learn how to assess the moisture content of the crops by hand. The final moisture content should be less than 10% wet basis.



In some cases the crop needs to be graded, eg high quality packaged products.

Pepper is graded by size, colour and relative density. Colour grading will have to be done by hand. Machines can be bought or made that will grade the pepper according to its size or relative density. However, a trained person with a winnowing basket is more appropriate for small-scale production.


Grinding may also add value but must be done carefully as there are difficulties. A whole, intact product can be easily assessed for quality whereas a ground product is more difficult. There is a market resistance to ground produce due to fear of adulteration. This can only be overcome by producing a consistently high quality product and gaining the confidence of customers. There are basically two types of grinders – manual grinders and mechanical grinders. A grinding mill has to be placed in a separate and well-ventilated room because of dust.

Manual grinding mills

There are many manual grinders that could be used to grind pepper.

An experienced operator can grind about 20kg in an eight-hour day. However, this is hard and boring work. A treadle or bicycle could easily be attached to the grinder, making the work easier. With this system one person could grind about 30kg in one day.

Work needs to be done to find out the degree of fineness the consumer wants. The grinding mills then need to be set so that they produce the desired ground product.

For small-scale production (up to 100kg/day, a series of these grinders is all that is needed. For larger scale production units, a mechanical grinder would be required.

Mechanical grinding mills

Horizontal plate, vertical plate or hammer mills are suitable for grinding pepper. A grinding mill has to be placed in a separate and well-ventilated room because of dust.

As above the grinding mill needs to be adjusted so that it grinds the pepper to the desired fineness.


Packaging material

Packaging of pepper especially if it is ground requires polypropylene. Polythene can not be used as the flavour components diffuse through it.

Simple sealing

The bags can be sealed simply by folding the polypropylene over a hacksaw blade and drawing it slowly over the flame of a candle. However, this extremely uncomfortable as the hacksaw blade heats up and can burn the hands of the operator. However, this is a very common technique.

Sealing machines

A sealing machine will speed this operation up considerably and produce a much tidier finish (which is very important).

The cheapest sealing machines have no timing mechanisms to show when the bag is sealed and they have a tendency to overheat.

Sealing machines with timers are desirable. The machines come in many sizes. For most work an 8 inch (20cm) sealer is sufficient. Eye catching labels should be sealed above the product in a separate compartment and holed so the package can be hung up in the shop.


A well designed and secure store is essential. The optimal conditions for a store are a low temperature, a low humidity and free from pests. The store should be located in a shaded, dry place. To keep humidity as low as possible only fully dried products should be stored in it. The produce should be checked regularly and if it has absorbed too much moisture it should be dried again.

To prevent rodents entering, the roof should be completely sealed. Mosquito netting should be placed over the windows and doors should be close fitting.




.moisture content % by weight Maxextraneous matter % by weight Maxlights % by weight Maxpinheads % by weight Max
International Standards Organization12.01.510.04.0
British Standards12.01.510.04.0
American Spice Trade Association Standards12.01.04.0.


Other Products of Pepper

White pepper

To produce white pepper the pepper berry is not harvested until it is bright red. The red berry is detached from the spike and soaked in gunny bags in a stream for over a week. The water in the stream should be clear to prevent discoloration. After removal the bags are trampled on until the pericarp is removed. The white peppercorns are thoroughly washed and dried.

Decorticated black pepper

This is black pepper that has had its outer skin removed mechanically. It is used as a substitute for white pepper when white pepper is in short supply.

Green pepper

Green pepper is when immature pepper berries are artificially dried or preserved in brine, vinegar or citric acid. They are popular in France.

Pepper oleoresin

This is extracted from black pepper by solvent extraction and is used to flavour foods.


Black pepper oil

The pepper is crushed and then undergoes steam distillation.

Pickled green pepper

Immature green pepper is pickled in vinegar or brine. This is very popular in France and West Germany.

Freeze dried green pepper

This is made in West Germany from imported green pepper corns, preserved in brine.

Rose pepper

This is when over ripe red pepper berries are preserved in brine, vinegar.


Note: This is a selective list of suppliers and does not imply Practical Action endorsement.

Milling equipment is listed in the Small-scale Spice Processing Practical Action Technical Brief Packaging equipment is listed in the Solid filling and Packaging Practical Action Technical Brief

Udaya Industries Uda Aludeniya
Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 8 388586
Fax: +94 8 388909

Pepper Thresher:


This machine removes berries from pepper spikes using a rotating drum with spikes. It has a 2kw electric motor or diesel/kerosene engine. Capacity 500-700 kg/hour. Diesel or electrically powered.


Acufil Machines S. F. No. 120/2,  Kalapatty Post Office

Coimbatore – 641 035

Tamil Nadu India

Tel: +91 422 2666108/2669909

Fax: +91 422 2666255

Email: products

Bombay Engineering Works

1 Navyug Industrial Estate

185 Tokersey Jivraj Road

Opposite Swan Mill, Sewree (W)

Mumbai 400015

India Tel: +91 22 24137094/24135959

Fax: +91 22 24135828


Premium Engineers Pvt Ltd Plot

No 2009, Phase IV, GIDC

Vatva, Ahmedabad 382445


Tel: +91 79 25830836

Fax: +91 79 25830965


Rank and Company A-p6/3, Wazirpur Industrial Estate

Delhi – 110 052


Tel: +91 11 7456101/ 27456102

Fax: +91 11 7234126/7433905


Threshing machines

Udaya Industries Uda Aludeniya Weligalla Gampola Sri Lanka

Tel: +94 8 388586

Fax: +94 8 388909


Industrias Technologicas Dinamicas SA

Av. Los Platinos 228

URB industrial Infantas

Los Olivios



Tel: +51 14 528 9731

Fax: +51 14 528 1579


Ashoka Industries



Sri Lanka

+94 71 764725


Kundasala Engineers

Digana Road



Sri Lanka

Tel: +94 8 420482


Alvan Blanch

Chelworth, Malmesbury


SN16 9SG


Tel: +44 1666 577333

Fax: +44 1666 577339