PEPPERS were domesticated 10,000 to 12,000 years ago by the Aztecs, Mayas and the Incas. Columbus in the 15th century introduced peppers to Europe and subsequently to Asia and Africa, and later to India, China and Japan through the spice trade. It is estimated that more than three million hectares of peppers are grown annually around the world.
Asia is the largest producer, followed by Africa and Europe. Pepper production is found from the humid tropics to the dry deserts, to the cool, temperate climates. The ability of pepper to thrive under this range of climatic conditions has rendered it a common crop worldwide.
Hot pepper is cultivated in all regions of Guyana. In some cases, it is done ona large scale in areas such as the Parika backlands and on farms in the Canals Polder, Region Three. In Region Four, large-scale production is done in the Mahaica and Moblissa areas. The largest area under cultivation is estimated at three acres.
There is tremendous scope for expansion in the production of hot peppers in Guyana. This is largely influenced by the agricultural diversification strategy undertaken by the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute. In addition, in recent times, the export market for processed forms of hot pepper has statistically shown a steady rate of expansion.
Peppers are considered to be warm-season and day-neutral plants that require about the same growing conditions as the other members of the Solanaceae family, for example, tomato and boulanger. Climate peppers can grow at a wide range of altitudes with rainfall between 600-1250 mm per annum. Most cultivars cannot tolerate flooded conditions. Seeds germinate best at 25-30o C. Optimal temperatures for productivity range between 18-30o C. In Guyana, the climatic condition is suitable for the cultivation of this crop.
Peppers are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. However, fertile medium loams and well-drained soils with a pH of 5.5-6.8 are generally considered most suitable. In Guyana, they are grown on all soil types which include sandy soils, clay soils and pegasse.
Several cultivars are grown locally which are suitable for fresh consumption or processing. These include Wiri Wiri, Miwiri, Bird Pepper, Ball O’ Fire, “Bullnose” Scotch Bonnet, Tiger Teeth, West Indian Red, Caribbean Red and Habanero. The main varieties for export, however, are the West Indian Red, the Caribbean Red, Habanero and the “Bullnose” Scotch Bonnet.