Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

As the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) stopped chilli import earlier this month and the local production is yet to pick up, the chilli shortage is expected to hit the market.

Chilli farmers in Tsirang say that it might take another two to three months to harvest their produce.

Farmers who reported good yield in the past years said that they could no longer grow chillies due to a disease outbreak. Farmers blame the poor seed quality.

A farmer in Rilangthang, Aiti Maya Rai, said that in winter, chilli plants wilt. “We are hopeful that we can harvest a good yield next season.”

Nima Yangzom from Mendrelgang said that she couldn’t harvest winter chillies this time. “The chilli saplings were infected and then they dried up. The agriculture sector said that they would supply different varieties in the coming season.”

In Sergithang, known for vegetable production in the dzongkhag, farmers said that they would be able to harvest chillies in another three months.

However, chilli cultivation is faring well in Dagana.  The dzongkhag is not only self-sufficient but also sends the surplus to other dzongkhags. The gewog agriculture extension officers are facilitating proper distribution and marketing of local chillies.

A youth farmer, Bimal Subba from Samarchu, has grown chillies and beans in his three-acre land. He has been harvesting about 350 kilograms (kgs) of chillies every 15 days since last month. He said that the production is gradually picking up.

“Most of the farmers did not grow chillies since the government announced temporary lift on chilli ban in January. But Dagana’s National Council (NC) member had been encouraging us,” he said.

The growing season, Bimal Subba said, would end in July and another season begins by September.

A vegetable aggregator from Karmaling gewog, Raj Kumar Limbu, has distributed three tonnes of chillies within Dagana in more than a month. In the next few days, he plans to transport the surplus to Thimphu. “The production is gradually increasing.”

An infection in winter has, however, hampered the cultivation, he added.

Every week, an aggregator from Gozhi gewog, Hochu Leki, supplies 250 kgs of chillies within Dagana and sells the surplus to other dzongkhags.

The chilli production from the gewog, according to agriculture extension officer Puran Lama, is expected to begin in the next three weeks. “We are expecting to harvest three metric tonnes from two-acre land.”

Dagana’s NC member, Surjaman Thapa, who is on constituency visits, said that the dzongkhag’s agricultural production was improving, with farmers focusing on livestock rearing and vegetable and cereal cultivation. Famers, he said, needed technical support and subsidies from the government.

FCBL stopped importing chilli since March 8 because of high presence of pesticides. The corporation started importing chilli from January 6 after the government approved a time-bound import of chillies to ensure availability, stabilise price and curb illegal import in the country.