Kinley Dendup, who took an interest free loan from the Loden Foundation to start off-season chilli cultivation in Punakha a few months ago, has started selling his first harvest in the Punakha market.
As the sole vendor with local chilli produce, Kinley is selling a kilogram of chilli for Nu 700 per kg. In the first week he was able to sell his limited 13 kilograms of chillies in no time. He is hopeful that his produce will increase hereafter and that, like the previous week, will sell quickly.
“I started off season chilli plantation in two acres of land using a green house,” said Kinley adding that he gets pre-orders for his produce.
Earlier agriculture ministry pledged that local chillies will be available in the market by the first or the second month of the year to address the shortage but their target backfired as the ministry could not support the locals with operation of green houses with required technology to maintain temperature due to budget shortages.
Namgay Thinley, vegetable focal person of the Agriculture Ministry, said that it is likely that local chillies will be available in the market by a week or two from now. The farmers were provided with new varieties of improved chilli seeds free of cost and few households were also assisted in maintaining green houses by the ministry.
Chilli yields are expected to be available in the market much earlier in places like Tashi Yangtse, Sarpang, Samtse, and Tsirang but considering the uncertainty of the outcome of in-country chilli production, there are no plans to suspend the import of chillies from Gujarat, India.
“For the upcoming winter, we will be carrying out a thorough research with the respective dzongkhag agriculture officers to discuss on sustainable measures to increase chilli production in the country,” said Namgay Thinley. He also added that currently the department is studying issues locals are facing in coming up with faster and better chilli yields.
The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) banned the imports of chilli on July 24 last year from Falakata, India, after it was confirmed, through a test carried out in India and Thailand, to contain toxic pesticide residues beyond what is normally permitted.
The ministry has since been importing chemical free chillies from Gujurat and other places Kolkata to address the chilli shortage in the country.