Chilli prices expected to drop from this month

The price of chilli is expected to come down this January as harvests from the winter chilli production hit the market

With import restrictions on chilli from India, a production squeeze and the increasing demand, the price of chilli has skyrocketed to around Nu 600 to Nu 800 per kilogram today, which is more as compared to other months of the year.

The prices, however, are likely to come down as compared to the high price now once harvests from the winter chilli production program hit the market.

โ€œThe production is expected to increase from January and February. Likewise, the price will then be softened as compared to the high price now,โ€ said the Chief Agriculture Officer of the Department of Agriculture (DoA), Namgyal Thinley.

With additional land development, irrigation facilities, greenhouse, and seeds for the production of winter vegetables in six southern dzongkhags, the DoA is expected to increase chilli production this winter.

According to the DoA, the department in collaboration with the dzongkhag agriculture sectors has taken several measures to increase winter chilli production and planned to meet demand across the country.

Namgyal Thinley said farmers are given inputs to build greenhouses, irrigation pipes, seeds, and additional plastic mulch to suppress weeds, conserve water in crop production and landscaping.

He added that the dzongkhag agricultural officers are providing technical support to the farmers of the southern belts by training and teaching them about the whole production process.

โ€œThough unhindered supplies to major markets in the winter is still a challenge, three consecutive years of winter chilli commercialization program (2017-2019) saw a tremendous increase in both area and production,โ€ Namgyal Thinley said.

Meanwhile, the government is supporting the southern dzongkhags with land development, irrigation facilities, greenhouse, and seeds for the production of winter vegetables.

The overall cultivation area expanded from 272 acres in 2017 to 799 acres in 2019. The department has supported the distribution of hybrid seeds to respective dzongkhags and is expected to continue the initiative.

The Chief Marketing Officer of the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Co-operatives (DAMC), Dawa Tshering said the price increase in chilli is due to the high cost of production in Bhutan as compared to India.

โ€œAs the supply chain is in a crunch, farmers expect a higher cost margin,โ€ he said, adding that the price shoots up mostly during the winter, which is considered the off-season.

The supply chains for chilli include Tsirang, Dagana, Samtse, Samdrup Jongkhar, Sarpang, and Gelephu.

According to the DoA, the harvest was severely dented last year due to heavy rainfall which damaged the chilli seeds. The harvest that was then left was infected. The lockdown also disrupted the harvest and the production was not as much as expected last year.

According to the estimates prepared by the DoA, chilli production in January will be approximately 200MT. It is expected to increase to around 350MT in February and hit almost 550 MT by March.

โ€œHowever, the department has taken into account all the mistakes made in the past year. The winter chilli program is expected to increase the supply of chilli, which will hopefully lower the price,โ€ the Chief Agriculture Officer said.

A vegetable vendor, Tshering Dema said the lower supply of chillies in the market is during the off-season and that it is hard to get supplies at a reasonable rate during the winter.

โ€œThe chilli prices shoot up as produce in the market becomes scarce. It is hard to get in contact with the suppliers during the off-season,โ€ she said.

She said the rise in prices could also be a ripple effect of the higher rates from the suppliers.

โ€œMost customers complain about the price when buying, and there are some who cannot afford,โ€ Tshering Dema said.

Sonam Yangden Tenzin from Thimphu