Going by the trend followed these days, Tsirang could soon become a chilli sufficient dzongkhag.
It has been more than a month that vegetable vendors in Tsirang have stopped buying chillies the youth business cooperative (YBC) imports from Kolkata and distributes to vegetable vendors across the country.
Tsirang residents have been consuming local chillies, which is grown abundantly. Farmers grow both local and the native Indian chillies grown in Bhutan, commonly known as jitsi ema.
Vendors in Tsirang say imported chilli gets damaged faster and is also expensive, whereas fresh chillies are available in the local market.
A vendor, Jyoti Nepal, said that importing chilli is not necessary when locally grown chillies are available.
She said when vendors buy chilli from the YBC, they have to buy in bulk, at least 200kgs to 300kgs and it rots before it reaches the destination. “We have to throw more than half.”
Jyoti also said the price for imported chilli was comparatively cheaper last year but ever since it was imported from Kolkata, the price hiked. “We could instead buy and promote our local chilli at that price.”
The initiative that vendors took by not buying importing chilli has come as a blessing for local chilli growers.
Most of the farmers, who brought locally grown jitsi ema to the Sunday market yesterday were from Gosarling gewog.
Sonam Choden, 52, has been selling chillies for last five weeks.
She said she brings at least 30kgs of jitsi ema grown in her garden every week and sells it for Nu 80 to Nu 130 a kilogramme.
“Jitsi ema fetch a better price than any other variety of chillies we grow,” she said. “All we need is something hot on our plate.”
Another farmer, Lhasang Dolma, sells her produce to vendors who supply chilli to Thimphu. She said she sold 49kgs in two weekends at Nu 100 a kg.
The price for Bhutanese chilli was Nu 30 a kg yesterday and the highest vendors fetched was Nu 300 a kg.
Vegetable vendors say farmers should grow more jitsi ema, as both require the same hard work in the fields.
Vendors say they decided that until the local chilli finishes in the market, they would not sell imported chillies.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang