Farmer Tanka Bahadur Chhetri grew chillies in 50 decimal land in Dagana’s Nichula gewog last year on trial.

He harvested two metric tonnes of produce. “If the elephants had not trampled over the plants, I could have harvested at least three metric tonnes of chillies.”

He said the production last year motivated him to expand the plantation area this year.

The class 12 drop out converted his three-acre barren land into chili farm this year.

Although an elephant prone area, he is hopeful to harvest more chillies this year.

The harvest from this first phase of the plantation is expected to hit the market after two weeks. “I transport it to the vegetable market in Thimphu,” he said. “A kilogram fetches Nu 150 to 200.”

In Nichula gewog, more than 40 farmers are in the ‘winter chilli programme’ list.

A total of eight-acre has been identified to grow chillies and in each acre is expected to produce at least 1000kg.

The gewog agriculture extension officer, Dawa Tshering, said that the production last year was not as expected, as the plant died of heat under the poly houses.

“This year, the plantation is being done outside to avoid it. We are hoping for a better harvest this year and the number of farmers opting to grow winter chilli increased by 12 households,” he said.

Dagana has identified 72.51 acres for winter chilli and at least 152 farmers are on the list.

Five gewogs including Tseza, Kana, Goshi, Dorona and Khebisa will not grow any winter chilli because of cold. Most of these gewogs are located 1,200 meters above sea level.

However, some farmers in Geserling and Largyab also will grow winter chilli.

The production last year was less than 50 percent of the projected figure, the dzongkhag agriculture officer (DAO) Passang Tshering said.

“Winter chili was cultivated for the first time so a lot of factors resulted in poor yield,” he said. “Cold weather led to poor growth and fruiting.”

He added that in some places the plants even perished because of harsh winter weather. “Extended monsoon rain hampered transplantation, which affected crop yield later. But this year, the dzongkhag is prepared well to ensure the success of winter chilli production.”

Passang Tshering said that they are hopeful that the yield will be better this year.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang