With the ongoing ban of chillies from Falakata in North Bengal and soaring domestic prices, the government is importing 20 Metric Tons or 20,000 kg of chillies from the Indian state of Gujarat via Kolkata.
Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the ministry has carried out chemical test on the chillies grown in Gujarat and they found that the chillies are safe to be consumed
Lyonpo said that the 20 metric tons of chillies from Gujarat will hit the market on coming Monday as the national weekly demand for chillies was estimated to be about 20 metric tons.
Lyonpo said that the chillies will be distributed In Thimphu, Gelephu, Phuntsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar as per the number of consumers in these Dzongkhags.
He said that once the chillies are here in the country, both chilli shortage and elevated chilli prices will subside.
The agriculture ministry tried to negotiate with Indian suppliers and farmers in Falakata to reduce the use of chemicals in chillies being exported to Bhutan.
However, the Agriculture Minister said that farmers in Falakata are least concerned about losing Bhutanese consumers and turned down the ministry’s request on bringing down the chemical use in their vegetables.
Currently in some places, like Phuentsholing and Gelephu, chilli supply has completely run out, and therefore, consumers go across the border to buy the cheap and freshly available Indian chillies, though they are laced with chemicals.
According to Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), a person caught carrying any vegetable that is banned in Bhutan will be liable for penalty.
BAFRA stated that its officials in the border areas cannot go after every person to check if they are illegally importing chillies.
“Going by the food rule, a person will be imposed ten times the market price as penalty for illegally importing the vegetables that are banned,” BAFRA stated.
Meanwhile, BAFRA will continue to brief the people on the health hazards of consuming such chillies that contain high chemical (pesticide) residue. Apart of such warnings, the ministry is also looking for chilli sources from Sikkim and Darjeeling, after carrying out tests on the chillies grown in these two areas.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji stressed that the ministry is trying to help farmers produce locally and in a healthy manner for Bhutanese consumers. He added that the goal of food self-sufficiency has been pushed at an accelerated pace to make local vegetables available and affordable.
Lyonpo said the Bhutanese farmers should make the optimal use of their fallow land and grow food. Further he added that such small problems should be converted into opportunities by producing home grown vegetables.
The ministry plans to boost internal vegetables productions through provisions of major services and interventions.
The officials have started with the assessment of vegetable production in various dzongkhags, and found out that some dzongkhags in the low-lying areas are able to produce vegetables for the winter season to meet domestic needs.
The National Vegetable Programme under the ministry has been coming up with various measures in encouraging farmers These include linking vendors of Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) with local producers, up scaling productions and supplying vegetables from government farms.
The ministry is also providing support in terms of seeds and seedlings, irrigation facilities, transportation subsidy, marketing equipment, minimum support price, etc.
Bhutan imports over more than 2,000 metric tons of chillies annually, and in winter alone Bhutan import’s over 1,500 metric tons of chillies.
Latest Update: People lined up to buy the chillies some of which came by air as well. Most of the stock was over by the middle of the week.