Black pepper, christened the 'King of Spices' and 'black gold', is the most important and most widely used spice in the world, occupying a position that is supreme and unique. In the past, black pepper ranked with gold and was used as barter money. It was so precious that only kings and others in the highest class were allowed to possess it. It was the lure of Indian pepper that brought the western world to the Indian sub-continent.

Black pepper originated in the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats; and the Malabar coast of India was the centre of the pepper trade from time immemorial. From here, pepper was carried to Indonesia and Malaysia by traders and travelers, and these countries became major producers during the first half of the present century. India has approximately 48 per cent of its area under pepper, but its share in production is only about 27.3 per cent. The productivity is highest in Thailand followed by Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil. In the next 50 years, the producing countries should gear up to double their pepper production to meet the global demand without any substantial increase in the area, as the availability of land for agricultural purposes will decrease in the coming decades. Pepper productivity has to go up substantially and this increase in productivity can be achieved only through a strong R and D back up.

I am very happy that Harwood Academic Publishers has taken the lead in publishing the first ever monograph on black pepper. However, it is more heartening that this monograph has been edited by Dr P.N.Ravindran of the Indian Institute of Spices Research whose expertise in the field is well known.

I congratulate the publishers and Dr Ravindran for this timely initiative.

R.S.Paroda Secretary (DARE) & (ICAR) Ministry of Agriculture Government of India ix

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