Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

Farmers in Trashiyangtse are struggling to sell Urka Bangala (chillies) despite slashing the price by almost half.

A kilogramme (kg) of the chilli earned Nu 200 at the beginning of this year.

With local chilli demand falling fast, farmers are worried that they might not be able to recover their investment. A kg of chilli is sold at Nu 40 in the market today in Trashiyangtse. It was sold at Nu 200 per kg at the beginning of the year.

Most farmers said that there are no buyers.

A farmer, Tshering Pelden said that the same variety of chilli that was earlier sold at Nu 200 a kg at the farm cannot fetch even Nu 60 today.

“The production is high, but there are no buyers. If there was demand, I would earn more than Nu 200,000,” she said.

Given the long distance between markets in Thimphu and Samdrupjongkhar, farmers said that it was not profitable to take the produce to these major markets.

“Without a private vehicle, it does not make sense to take small quantities to the market, because the transportation cost is huge,” said a farmer from Bimkhar village. “We will incur losses going there because even if we sell at Nu 100 a kg considering the cost of production and labour charges we had to bear.”

A chilli grower, Dechen Tshomo said that if the trend continues most of the farmers would revert to growing only for their own consumption. “It is demotivating.”

“It is better to work as a daily wage labourer than cultivating chilli at a commercial scale. Without a market, I am worried,” she said, adding there are only a few buyers.

Chilli grown in Trashiyangtse are more popular for their quality. Farmers earn between Nu 100,000 and Nu 250,000 annually.

A mother, Dorji Dema attributed the lack of demand to the closure of the Kholongchu hydro Project.

“We easily sold it for Nu 200 per kg in the past. A few weeks ago, we fetched a good price. But many are unhappy with the price since it has now reduced to Nu 40,” she said.

Trashiyangtse Assistant Agriculture Officer, Chhimi Drakpa said that with support from the Agriculture Research and Development Centre, Wengkhar, Mongar, the dzongkhag agriculture sector provided three solar dryer machines to chilli growers.

“As the staff of the Kholongchu hydropower project left Trashiyangtse, farmers faced market problems. But it is not a serious problem,” he said. “We advised all farmers to focus more on dried chilli since it fetched between Nu 1,500 and Nu 1,800.”

He said to address the market problem next year, the dzongkhag agriculture sector would make sure chilli growers grow chilli as per the demand in the market.

There is a marketing problem because farmers cultivated more chillis, focusing on the Kholongchu hydro Project according to the agriculture officials. However, it was difficult to explore the market as other dzongkhags also produce chilli.

Agriculture officials said that it is challenging to explore the market for farm produce in other dzongkhag, as the price of chilli is high and other dzongkhags also produce green chillies.