The mass plantation is one of the government’s interventions aimed at meeting local demand through local production 

A mass commercial chilli plantation was carried out at Chimipang in Lobesa, Punakha, on March 18.

The mass plantation, according to agriculture officials, is to encourage farmers to produce more chillies.

Department of Agriculture (DoA) director Kinlay Tshering, said the mass plantation is one of the interventions of the agriculture ministry to address the chilli shortage in the country.

Hundreds of volunteers from all agencies under the ministry participated in the mass plantation that was led by the agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji and health minister Tandin Wangchuk.

Members of Parliament, dzongdags and officials of Punakha and Wangdue, and students of the College of Natural Resources (CNR) also participated in the mass chilli plantation.

Kinlay Tshering said the activity is also a demonstration of planting chillies using technologies. “The campaign is to encourage farmers to grow more so that our chilli requirement is met from the domestic production,” she said.

She added that although 75-80 percent of chillies required in Bhutan are produced locally, the remaining has to be imported.

She pointed out that the country imported 10,777 metric tones (MT) of chillies so far.

“The overall production is around 7,000 to 8,000MT a year and the usual import requirement is around 2,000MT a year.” This includes the chilli requirement in winter and some special chillies imported during the summer.

Kinlay Tshering said that through such interventions, the ministry is hoping to achieve 100 percent self-sufficiency in chillies, for which the ministry is coming up with various interventions.

“For summer cultivation we are promoting good quality chilli varieties and the ministry is enhancing the capacity of farmers through trainings and promoting improved production technologies,” she said.

For winter cultivation, the ministry is promoting use of green houses to increase winter production and also investing in improving irrigation facilities especially in the low lands. The ministry is also promoting efficient water use technologies for areas facing limited water availability.

Agriculture officials said that 80 percent of the chilli saplings were grown at Chimipang and rest was mobilised from villages in Punakha. There were at least three varieties of chillies.

“The area is expected to produce around 20MT of chilies,” said the director. The marketing for the chillies will be facilitated through the Food Corporation of Bhutan and the marketing department of the agriculture ministry.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue