The group is geared up to increase production further this year

Cooperatives: Last year was a fruitful year for the Brongteri vegetable group in Bangtsho chiwog, Dewathang.

Despite being able to sell their entire chilli production, the group also earned more than what they usually did.

The profitable business was attributed to the ban on import of chillies from India that lead to an increase in demand from the residents of Samdrupjongkhar. Residents still find it difficult to find chillies from the vegetable market owing to which they resort to illegal purchase from Mela bazaar, adjacent Indian border town, in small quantities.

Following the successful year, group members are all geared up to increase the chilli production this year. For this, works have already begun. Members are busy clearing one acre of land to expand the chilli plantation having decided to utilise the opportunity to generate more income for the group.

The members are not only expanding the plantation but also grow other verities of chillies to meet the demand since the production exhausted even before reaching Samdrupjongkhar market.

Group member Karma Tenzin said that they first knew about the ban from people living in town, which motivated them to take the opportunity to sell and supply to some institutions.

Karma Tenzin said the ban not only helped them earn more but also the group succeed. “Since the group was formed in 2015 we had difficulty competing with the Indian market,” he said. “But now we’re determined and working hard to optimally utilise the extended land.”

The members managed to sell more than 200 kilograms of chillies compared to about 50 kilogram earlier and remain hopeful to increase their sales further this year.

The members earned more than Nu 3,000 a week last year compared to about Nu 1,000 the year before. Most households managed to earn more than Nu 20,000 last year.

The group that started with only five members now has 14. The members, for the first time, also managed to save about Nu 15,000 in their group savings account with the bank.

The members deposit Nu 100 a month. They intend to use the savings after five years during emergencies and to help their children attend school in line with the regulations laid when forming the cooperative.

Meanwhile, the ban on the other imported vegetables like cauliflower and beans have also helped boost their market to generate more income. The group also grows carrot, broccoli, ginger and potatoes besides chillies.

“The group has benefitted us individually too. We are now growing these vegetables for mass production,” another member Kinzang Wangmo said. “We’re planning to grow more cauliflower and beans this year as it’s not available in the market.”

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar