With the import of chilies from India still banned, four gewogs in Pemagatshel have taken up growing winter chilli on a commercial scale.

Farmers of Noorbugang, Decheling, Dungmaed, and Chimoong have completed planting the seedlings, which would be harvested sometime in November.

Pemagatshel’s district agriculture officer, Tshering Kinzang, said the four gewogs were chosen based on climatic condition. The gewogs, he said, have night temperature to grow the winter chilies.

“Villagers were apprehensive about the initiative in the beginning because this is the first time they are growing chilli,” he said. “They would be planting in four staggers so that when the first is harvested, they are ready with the second until the summer.”

Agriculture officials distributed three varieties of seedlings for free and water pipes, and helped the villagers construct greenhouse. More than 60 households and groups are involved in cultivation on about 40-acre land.

Tshering Kinzang said that everything works well, the plan is to plant chilies on about 100 acres of land and supply to the eastern dzongkhags.

“This would help farmers generate income during the off season,” he said, adding that farmers are expected to be independent growers.

He said that since the initiative has just started, the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives would work on marketing strategies. “Once the chilies are harvested, we just have to inform the department. They would direct how to market the product.”

The farmers have been advised to take care of the chilies, Tshering Kinzang said. Officials also monitor because management is important to make this initiative a success. “We’ve advised farmers to report immediately if there is any pest attack on plants.”

Yangchen C Rinzin