The Pepper of Pará

pimenta-do-reino(1)

Pimenta-do-reino (black pepper) is a flowering vine, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described as black pepper, white pepper, red/pink pepper, green pepper, and very often simply pepper.

Black pepper is native to South India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions, especially in Belém. Outside of Vietnam, Brazil is the largest exporter and producer.

Japanese & Pimenta

“The history of the pimenta-do-reino within the trajectory of the Japanese immigrants in Brazil’s northern region, had the makings of an epic poem. There are registers of its cultivation in Brazil from the 17th century, but the Japanese were responsible for its production on a commercial scale.

The epic poem started in 1929, when Nambei Takushoku Kaisha created the Companhia Nipônica de Plantação do Brasil (Japanese Plantation Company of Brazil) and started the construction of the Acará colony (later called Tomé-Açu). The principal crop was cacau as well as other crops such as the pimenta-do-reino and rice, which were complementary.

In 1935, after frustrated attempts with cacau, it was decided that the Açaizal experimental station would be closed. Such was the destiny of Fukutaro Obana, entrusted with this mission, he would find in one of the corners of the station, three stems of pimenta-do-reino remaining from the 20 stems that Makinosuke Usui brought from Singapore in 1933. The stems were given to Tomoji Kato and Enji Saito who distributed pieces of the plant to their compatriots. By 1945, it had multiplied to close to 800 stems.

With the end of the Second World War, the pimenta-do-reino transformed itself into the “black diamond” of the Amazon – in 1945, it cost 30 cruzeiros per kilo and by the next year, it jumped to 85 cruzeiros. As a consequence of the destruction of the production centers, such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. In 1954, the plantations in Tomé-Açu totaled 332 thousand stems.

But, in 1955, the recuperation of the production centers of South Asia provoked a retraction in the market. In the 70’s, more difficulties; the intense plantation in the Tomé-Açu region provoked the appearance of diseases in the pepper plants.

Some producers went to other regions of the Amazon in search of better pastures. Others decided to develop other crops, while they formed and transplanted new varieties of pimenta-do-reino.” – Source (in PT, no longer available, translated)

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