A woman sorts chilli at the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu yesterday

Winter chilli production encouraging despite hiccups

Harka Bahadur Chawan from Tsirang grew winter chillies for the first time last year. He wants to grow more this year.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “One of the two varieties have lasted more than four months now and, if I get this kind of seed, I’m going to cultivate an acre.”

Harka Bdr Chawan grew chilli on about six-decimal land and produced about 70kg of crop.

“The price is good,” he said. His chillies sold at a prices ranging between Nu 200 a kg and Nu 350. He earned more than Nu 10,000.

He said that most farmers in his village are planning to grow more chillies this winter.

Harka Bahadur Chawan from Sunkose village, Rangthling was among the 1,238 households that embarked on cultivating winter chilli last year and produced 140 metric tonnes (MT). They grew chilli on 608 acres altogether.

Farmers and agriculture officials said that the experience has taught them how to overcome numerous issues.

Agriculture department’s principal horticulture officer, Kinley Tshering, said that since it was the first cultivation, both farmers and agriculture extension officials were uncertain about its success.

“There were also hiccups as expected,” he said.

The prolonged monsoon had wiped out the seedlings in the nursery in some places, while in others, pests killed the plants.

The plantation was done in staggered method, meaning chilli seedlings were transplanted with two weeks interval beginning August.

“The rain spoilt the first and second plantations hampering the targeted production in December,” he said. “But there was no problem of selling the produce.”

Local
market price Nu. 200/kg
Dzongkhag Expenditure for
Inputs (Nu. in Million)
Total
Production as of May 2018 (MT)
Total income
generated (Nu. in Millions)
Differences
(Income-Expenditure)
Chukha 0.822 2.13 0.426 -0.396
Dagana 2.428 9.79 1.958 -0.470
Pemagatshel 4.297 3.40 0.680 -3.617
Samdrupjongkhar 1.547 12.18 2.436 0.889
Samtse 3.907 17.27 3.454 -0.453
Sarpang 4.816 89.53 17.906 13.090
Tsirang 2.403 4.46 0.892 -1.511
Zhemgang 1.002 0.87 0.174 -0.828
FMCL Farms 0.366 1.01 0.202 -0.164
Total 21.588 140.64 28.128 6.540

He said that if calculated at Nu 200 a kg the chilliesfetched an income of Nu 28.128 million.

Farmers said that the chilli did not grow well in open field.

“That’s why I have opted to grow them in a green house or under protection,” a farmer from Samtenling, Deepak, said.

Research at the Wengkhar agriculture research development centre also showed more growth of the plants in the green house.

The research result shows that there is lack of pollination and farmers need to open the sides of the green house to let in air during the day and for pollination.

“Under Khangma and Wengkhar conditions, the trial did not work due to low temperature,” the research found.

Dagana farmers reported similar crop failure in the four gewogs located in the upper areas of the dzongkhag.

Dagana agriculture officer, Passang Tshering, said that these gewogs would plant chillies in polyhouses this winter.

Kinley Tshering said that is why most of the farmers are also encouraged to do plastic mulching.

“This helps maintain the temperature, moisture, and also control weed growth,” Kinley Tshering said.

He said that based on the national average yield of 1.60MT per acre as of summer 2015, the total expected production last winter was 1,011.92MT. This estimate was drawn from the summer yield data as there was no data on winter chilli in the country.

“The estimate was much higher,” he said.

Kinley Tshering said that the winter chilli was grown since August last year on 688.66 acres in 62 gewogs of eight dzongkhags and four farms of FMCL in Kana and Nichula in Dagana, Gelephu and Phuntshothang in Sarpang.

Sarpang dzongkhag produced more than 65 percent of the chillies. Expect for Chudzom gewog 293 households from the other 11 gewogs cultivated chillies on 94.6 acres and yielded 89.53MT.

The agriculture ministry implemented the winter chilli programme after temporarily suspending the import of chillies from India in July last year. After the ban, the price of chilli shot to Nu 700 a kg. Food Corporation of Bhutan then imported and distributed chillies at Nu 50 a kg to meet demand across the country last winter.

Dzongkhags, gewogs and beneficiaries signed agreements to use the inputs for vegetable production and produce chilli for a minimum of three years.

Bhutan Trade Statistics 2016 show that the country imported 1,846MT worth Nu 59.003 Million (M) of green chillies from India.

Records maintained with agriculture ministry show that between January and March 2017, a total of 157.89MT worth about Nu 4.147M of green chillies were imported from India. The data from FCB between December 6, 2016, and April 7, 2017, shows a total of 223.05MT worth Nu 5.570M of green chillies imported from India to meet demands during the lean season.

A study found that 10.94MT of chillies were damaged in transportation and only 212.10MT were sold in the domestic market.

Agriculture department in collaboration with agriculture research and development centres and dzongkhag administrations prepared production plan for commercial winter chilli production in June 2017.

The ministry invested Nu 21.588 million to supply inputs to farmers and Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd for efficient water use facilities, protected cultivation technologies and quality seeds from national vegetable programme.

The department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives (DAMC) linked producers with the market in Thimphu based on the market demand analysis.

DAMC also linked producers with local vegetable vendors or vegetable vendor association of Centenary Farmers’ Market in bringing the fresh chillies to Thimphu.

Dagana dzongkhag supplied the most chillies to the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu selling more than 51 percent of its harvest to the vendors at the market.

Tshering Palden

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