Although chilli is indispensable to Bhutanese diet, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the Cabinet did not lift the ban on its import because of safety reasons.
He said sample test results of imported chillies showed chemical content beyond the permissible limit. “We carried out sample tests twice and confirmed the public health risks if consumed for a longer period of time.”
He said that to address the shortage, they even examined chillies in Kolkatta. “Out of three samples, only one sample had lesser chemical content.”
Lyonchhen said the government even considered importing from the particular vendor whose sample had lesser chemical content but couldn’t ensure safety in the future.
He said chemicals like organophosphates and organochlorine in vegetables affects the nervous system. “Over a prolonged period of consumption, such chemicals would cause irreversible health impacts such as cancer, blood-related illnesses, and affect livers and kidneys.”
The agriculture ministry’s assessments, however, reported that the local chillies will hit the market in the next month.
With the ban imposed in June 2016, since 2017, the government encouraged farmers to grow small green chillies.
For this winter, 535 acres of land in the southern dzongkhags are cultivated with chillies.
The production areas were provided with inputs such as seeds, fencing, plastic mulching, and drip irrigation technology, the officials with the agriculture ministry said.