A hot topic

A ban on imported chillies as a result of high levels of pesticides being detected and limited local supply is causing chilli prices to skyrocket in our markets.

A kilogramme of chillies today is Nu 300, up from Nu 200 not too long ago.

We import a lot of chillies and most of it is consumed during the winter months.

Clearly, we should be producing our own chillies, and while we are, production is not enough. The problem is the winter months.

The government is already attempting to encourage local farmers to cultivate more chillies, along with other import-restricted vegetables for this winter. It is also considering importing chillies from other markets in India.

Chilli seedlings were distributed in September, and it is expected that 740 metric tonnes of chillies will be produced locally this month. If this succeeds this will meet only half of the usual demand during the winter months. It is a late start, but it is a start nevertheless.

We should be willing to wait until prices are naturally driven down as local supply picks up in the, hopefully, near future. We shouldn’t call for artificial price ceilings to be imposed. Some may curse the vegetable vendors, but this is what happens when bans are imposed and local supply isn’t sufficient.

This phenomenon is mostly affecting those of us in the urban areas, primarily Thimphu and Phuentsholing. We’ve become used to eating fresh chillies throughout the year.

If one is not happy with the rising prices, this is also an opportunity to switch to alternatives such as dried chillies, and chilli powder, among others. Perhaps, one can exude some courage and even entirely cut out chillies from a meal or two a day.

The current situation is not palatable. But at one point of time, so was the egg situation. But look at the situation today. Our country is self-sufficient in eggs, and demand and supply are at a natural equilibrium meaning reasonable prices.

With the current efforts to raise local supply, it would be safe to assume that we’re going to reach such a similar situation soon. If that means tightening our belts just a little bit, for the good of the country, why not.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    It felt a bit interesting going through the headings of the recently posted editorials…”Changing Face of Our Society”, “Preventing Forest Fires”, “Need to Get Figures Right”, “Let’s Spend More Wisely”, “Alcohol: Killing the Social Malady” and today we have “A Hot Topic”. Take them as outlines, and probably a story teller ends up writing quite an essay on Economy.

    High prices for chillies is not new to the consumers. I don’t exactly recollect now, but I have read it in Kuensel about high quality Bhutanese local chillies retailing at a higher price in the past. With import of adequate supply of chillies in place that time around, locally produced chillies found it difficult to retail at a price to sustain the competition in the market. I am sorry that I am not able to recollect the exact news post at this moment.

    It’s good to know that import of chillies has been banned temporarily for presence of high levels of pesticides. With only local supply in place now, this should bring the price of different qualities and probably even varieties of chillies to a market equilibrium. Otherwise, you expect the price of imported chillies to go down in a situation like this with local production not enough to meet the net demand.

    That could have even given the local producers the chance to price their chillies premium. But anyway, the import of chillies has been banned due to the higher levels of pesticides. It’s really good to know that the authority is concerned about it and has acted promptly. It’s so difficult to imagine a typical Bhutanese meal without the chillies and the cheese.

    When it’s obvious that supply is just around half of the demand, only thing the consumers should try is controlled consumption to make sure that stocks of local chillies don’t run dry very soon. With winter around, we anyway expect the chillies to remain fresh for long and that’s good news on the supply side. Luckily for all of us, fresh chillies don’t have any MRP printed on them.

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