Around 6,000 MT of winter chillies produced in the country this winter season

Meanwhile, the department has released two cold tolerant hybrid chilli varieties in southern dzongkhags

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

However, chillies import has been temporarily lifted since the lockdown, provided the chemical content is within the allowable limit.

For winter vegetable production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) has been focusing on seven southern dzongkhags. However, the chilli output was unable to fulfill the market demand.

The Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor last year claimed that the shortage of chillies in the country is basically due to the failure of winter chilli production in the country.

As per the Department of Agriculture, there is no segregated data for last season’s winter chilli, however, the department provided this year’s production forecast for three winter months. About 6,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) is expected to have been sourced internally.

For winter chilli production, the department is training farmers on improved methods of seedlings raising so that they can have enough disease-free seedlings for early planting.

Farmers are advised to plant chilli early, that is latest by September, so that the plants start fruiting by October and harvest can be made from the end of November.

The department has released two cold tolerant hybrid chilli varieties, namely Sitara gold and HPH 1069 for cultivation in southern dzongkhags as winter chillies. This is because the existing chilli variety is not cold tolerant meaning, low performance in winter.

Rain shelters are promoted to protect winter chilli from post monsoon rain damage

Highlighting the challenges, the Deputy Chief of Horticulture of Department of Agriculture under MoAL said that post monsoon rain damages the seedlings, therefore, early harvest is affected.

Availability of Indian chillies at a cheaper price also impacts the market of local chilli

He said that low night temperature and longer overcast days (not enough sunlight) in winter reduces the production and productivity of chilli. 

“Crop rotation is found to be effective in chilli production. Use of the same field over the year for chilli production is found to decline yield and higher pest and disease incidences.  Adequate land for rotation is a challenge,” he said. 

He added that winter is a season of water scarcity, adequate irrigation in all potential areas has not reached for optimum production. 

“Pest and disease forecast system is not yet operationalized with adequate, and accessibility of control measures needs to be strengthened,” he added.

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