500 metric tons of winter chillies to hit a chilli starved market by March

Meanwhile winter vegetables have started arriving

The country faced shortage of vegetables during the first lockdown, however, the government out sourced vegetables from different parts of dzongkhags and imported depending upon the needs.

With the lesson learnt the government has been focusing on southern dzongkhags for the production of winter vegetables.

Signature crops for the winter vegetable production are chilli, tomato and onion. However, currently the chillies are not available in the market. Chillies are consumed by the kilograms in Bhutan as all the dishes require a large quantity of the essential and all important ingredient.

According to the Director General of Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives Ugyen Penjore, winter chilli has started coming into the market but it is still at an early stage. It is expected to pick up substantially during March.

According to the estimates prepared by the Department of Agriculture (DOA), chilli production in January will be approximately 165 MT. It is expected to increase to 294 MT in February and by March it is expected to hit almost 500 MT.

He said that so far, a little more than 27 MT of green chilli has been marketed across the country, with close to 5 MT being supplied to Thimphu City alone. However, demand still outstrips supply with chilli import being restricted.

Likewise, local tomato production is limited though production is estimated to total around 72.5MT for the month of January.  It is expected to increase to almost 120 MT during the month of March.

“However, market demand for tomato and other crops such as onions are being supplemented or met through imports from India,” he said. 

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor earlier said that since the winter vegetable is a first time initiative by the government, a lot of work needed to be done to carry out this project.

“We need land development, input like seeds, irrigation and in winter we need water, green houses and the investment is huge, so the preparation task was quiet challenging that’s why it is getting delayed but its all progressing very well,” Lyonpo said.

The government has supported the southern dzongkhags with the land development, irrigation facilities, green house and seeds for the production of winter vegetables.

Meanwhile, consumers are waiting for the fresh green chillies from the south to reach the market.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority banned imported chilies in 2016. Since then many dzongkhags have been producing large quantities of the vegetable to be sold with the main market being Thimphu.

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