Farmers are also worried of other produce 

Nima | Gelephu

An acute shortage of chillies last winter drove farmers in Zhemgang to grow it at a commercial scale. Many of them are regretting the decision. 

Many have large fields with ready harvest, most of which are rotting. 

The farmers have used bus service to transport the produce to Thimphu, and hired bolero pickup trucks up to Trongsa to sell them. 

After he could not sell at the vegetable market in Thimphu, Rinchen Dorji from Goshing sought help from his relatives to sell chillies to schools in the capital. 

“I could sell 300kg in Thimphu. Finding a market for chillies is difficult. I tried selling in Panbang but there were no buyers,” he said. “I should have planted earlier to avoid this market problem.”

He staggered the plantation to help him find a better market. “Over 40kg rotted and few more in the field couldn’t be harvested on time. It is disappointing to see our efforts go in vain,” said Rinchen Dorji. 

Goshing tshogpa, Zangpo, said farmers faced a tough time hiring vehicles and taking the produce to market. “The government is facing a tough time but helping with transportation would be a huge boost for us. They are discouraged but many have still not given up,” he said. 

He added that the farmers could have managed to sell their produce if the seedlings were given on time.  

“We’d have planted early and the harvest could have helped ease the shortage we faced earlier. We face marketing problems with other agricultural produce too,” said Zangpo. 

The tshogpa added that the farmers disposed of 1,000kg of cabbage last winter and they were worried about ginger. Over 90 percent of the population in Goshing has grown ginger this year. 

Dorji Chezom from Kaptong in Nganla gewog, Panbang, said that almost all farmers in Kaptong started growing chillies on a commercial scale after they heard of the chilli shortage early this year. 

Of the 50 households in Kaptong, more than 70 percent have grown chillies. “Finding a market is difficult now. The price has slumped,” she said. 

She said: “Many cleared fallow lands to grow chillies. We tried drying it but it’s decaying fast because of the rain.” 

Farmers in Ngangla being in high-risk areas couldn’t move for marketing. “There are another 1,000kg for harvest. We informed the officials but they could hardly do anything,” said a farmer. 

Dzongkhag agriculture officials said that the administration discussed with a private food-processing unit in Thimphu and have sent about a metric tonne of chillies to Lingmithang integrated food processing unit in Mongar. 

However, it was difficult to explore the market for the local variety. 

“Some local varieties couldn’t be taken for pickling. There was not much of a problem with the hybrid seeds we introduced. Some farmers explored seeds on their own, as seedlings couldn’t reach all,” said an official.

He added that the number of farmers and groups growing vegetables on a large scale has increased since the ministry encouraged the farmers to increase the production. 

There is a marketing problem because farmers couldn’t travel like in normal times. Vehicles are not easily available. There are other protocols to be followed while moving from high-risk areas. This could have affected the farmer from four gewogs of lower Kheng, according to the dzongkhag agriculture sector.

The official said that it was challenging to explore the market for farm produce in Zhemgang, as the dzongkhag faced natural lockdown during summer with the frequent roadblocks at Rewtala towards Trongsa and at Box cutting towards Gelephu. 

Edited by Tshering Palden