Like any other dzongkhags in the country, Sarpang depends on imported chilli during winter. But this coming winter, the dzongkhag will not only have sufficient chilli for consumption but will also supply to other dzongkhags.

The dzongkhag administration, gewogs and farmers are optimistic that they can implement the plan. The dzongkhag agriculture offices are preparing for mass chilli plantation.

About 94 acres of land has been identified in 11 gewogs for the winter chilli plantation. Only Chudzom gewog, which is located at a higher altitude than the other 11 gewogs, will not have the mass plantation.

Agriculture officials say that farmers registered with them for the mass plantation will designate 50 decimals of land for chilli plantation alone.

Officials also say that the mass chilli plantation plan is initiated after the agriculture ministry directed all southern dzongkhags to produce chilli in winter to make it available in the market all season and also reduce chilli import.

By August first week, farmers will begin transplanting the chillies and the first harvest is expected in November. It is expected to last until March next year.

While chilli is not a new vegetable to be grown in Sarpang, farmers are a bit worried growing it in mass because of water scarcity and chilli stunting.

The dzongkhag assistant agriculture officer, Kinley Namgay, said farmers who have access to water facility or have assured winter irrigation scheme have been listed to plant chilli. “We’ve already consulted with farmers and are planning for a good production,” he said.

He said that farmers would be supplied with three varieties of hybrid seeds brought from India this year. “Sarpang is getting eight kilogrammes of seeds to grow in the identified 94-acre land.”

Kinley Namgay said that of the three varieties grown this year, the dzongkhag will focus on the one that gives good production next year.

He said if necessary, dzongkhag will support farmers with necessary tools such as a poly house, rabbit nets, flexible water pipes and plastics for mulching.

Gelephu gewog has identified 14 farmers for growing winter chilli in a total of 12.9 acres.  While most farmers have designated a minimum of 50 decimals, some have more than two acres.

The gewog agriculture officer, Gyaltshen, said that they asked the farmers to keep the designated land fallow for some time.

He said that farmers will be provided ready to plant seedlings next month. “Plantation will be done in a staggering method so that the produce can be harvested at a different time.”

Chuzargang gewog faces acute water shortage in winter but 10 farmers have come forward to grow off-season chilli. The gewog agriculture officer said although the gewog has the capacity to produce more, farmers are not able to because of the shortage of labour.

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag targets to produce about 282 metric tonnes of chilli from the identified 94-acre land. At least three metric tonnes is expected to grow in one acre.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu