West Kalimantan is a region that is starting to gain attention for its increasing potential in pepper farming. Farmlands have been growing annually, reaching 7,154 ha in 2017. Pepper has become one of the strategic agricultural commodities for West Kalimantan, as indicated in the Plantation Development Plan 2014-2025, where the government aims to grow the coverage of pepper farms to 50,000 ha. This is due to several advantages such as the availability of efficient pepper cultivation technology, lower production costs and the opportunity to diversify products should pepper prices fall.

Pepper farms are spread throughout 10 districts, with Bengkayang being the largest pepper producing district. Sambas and Sanggau are also well known pepper districts in the area. West Kalimantan exported around $6.29 million worth of pepper in June 2020, with 18,344 farmers involved in producing both black and white pepper. It can be observed that the export potential of West Kalimantan pepper is gaining traction from the local and national governments, as assistance in terms of market access, upgrading, and production are increasing. The Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture has been upgrading West Kalimantan’s pepper quality to international market export levels, and market accessibility is being opened to several strategic countries. Furthermore, pepper seed distribution and technological advancements in pepper cultivation have also been supported, especially for farmers in the Sambas region.  

Challenges Facing West Kalimantan Pepper Farmers

According to John David, researcher from the West Kalimantan Agricultural Technology Research Center, the challenges faced by pepper farmers in West Kalimantan stem from low productivity and low income. Farmers are observed to only rely on farming one commodity, while the pepper prices in West Kalimantan are relatively low. Farmers still use traditional cultivation methods; thus, the quantity and quality of pepper yields have not yet been optimized. Pepper farming is also conducted monoculturally, and the integration between pepper farms with livestock farms have not yet been put into practice to by most farmers in the region. Additionally, longer wet months in West Kalimantan puts farmers in a situation where their pepper plants are unable to optimally produce flowers, thus the berry production is low.

Opportunities for Digital Farming in West Kalimantan

West Kalimantan pepper farms are on their way to becoming large-scale commercial farms that will create space for absorbing new technology, reducing unemployment, and increasing welfare. Technological innovation can assist in accelerating farmers in producing international export quality yields and can become a platform for increasing productivity through knowledge dissemination. Through the SpiceUp App, farmers are introduced to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and are provided materials on how farmers should choose the best seeds, cultivate their pepper yields, control pests and diseases, and store their dried pepper yields, amongst other information. The updated content regarding weather and moisture level provided in the SpiceUp App allows farmers to mitigate a climate event and prevent their farms from pest and disease infections due to high moisture levels. Introducing an accessible, easy to use digital application in West Kalimantan can assist farmers in producing pepper with the quality that meet consumers’ needs, prepares farmers for export, and manage pepper farms more efficiently.

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