Chhimi Dema

Despite a “temporary” ban on importing chilies, wholesalers and vendors in Thimphu are selling imported chilies.

A vendor in the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu said that there are about 10 wholesalers who supply imported chilies.

“The wholesalers buy at Nu 30 per kg from India and sell them to us at Nu 450 or Nu 350 for per kg in local markets,” the vendor said.

Local chilies cost Nu 400 per kg in off-seasons and less than Nu 100 during the peak production season.

An official from the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) said that the authority was monitoring the market to ensure that vendors are not selling imported chilies.

“BAFRA received complaints that some vendors were mixing the imported chilies with local ones,” the official said.

Some vendors at CFM say that wholesalers forge documents and sell imported chilies labeled as local produce.

Subba, a vendor in Thimphu, said that the price fluctuation of chilies is dependent on the illegal import of chilies. “If importers are able to import the chilies, the price decreases. The price of the local produce is hiked up if they fail to import.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, in a press release in July 2016, stated that after finding the presence of pesticides in three batches of imported chilies, the ministry was imposing a temporary ban on all imported chilies.

Additional reporting by Dorji Wangmo and Sonam Deki