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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.

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