Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

In what is a bold step towards supporting local farmers, the Dagana’s dzongkhag agriculture sector has asked the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) not to distribute imported green chillies to vendors in the dzongkhag without formal consultation and study.

The letter, dated January 27, stated that the distribution of imported green chillies in the dzongkhag would undermine the efforts and confidence of producers. “Dagana is one of the few identified dzongkhags for the production of winter chilli.”

This news has been received well by local producers.

A vegetable supplier from Dorona, Buddey Subba, said that the winter chilli production from the dzongkhag is still at its peak. He collects local chillies from Karmaling and Tsendagang gewogs at a farmgate price, Nu 100, and then supplies them to vendors at Nu 125 as fixed by the authorities concerned.

The price of a kilogram (kg) of local chilli in Dagana varies between Nu 150 and Nu 160.

He said that there is high demand for local chillies in the dzongkhag. “I also supply to other gewogs, schools, project offices, and officials.”

Surplus is sent to other dzongkhags.

However, he said that vendors are jacking up the prices of chillies in Dagapela as high as Nu 180 per kg. “We have informed consumers to file complaints if the prices are increased,” he said.

Another supplier from Gozhi, Hochu Leki, supplied four metric tonnes of surplus chillies to other dzongkhags such as Paro, Haa, Wangdue, Punakha, and Thimphu. “Earlier, we raised the issue of market challenges facing the local farmers due to increasing import, but there was no support. But then the dzongkhag administration has helped us now.”    

He said that the cost of local chilies is high as chili-growing gewogs are in the red zone.

A vendor in Dagapela, Laxman Gurung, charges Nu 150 for a kg of local chili.

Last month the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) announced a temporary lift on the imported chili ban for three months to ensure availability, to stabilise prices, and to curb illegal imports.

On January 10, FCBL distributed 14 metric tonnes of chilies and is expected to import 350 metric tonnes every month until March to meet local demand.

As per the MoAF’s records, Bhutanese consume 420 metric tons of chilies every month.

As of February 10, according to the ministry’s notification on the revision of selling prices on selected vegetables, a kg of local chili costs Nu 160. Imported chilies cost Nu 110 in Thimphu.