Samtse farmers strive to meet chili demand in winter

Samtse dzongkhag is striving to achieve its target to produce winter chili to meet the off-season market demand. Since last season, the dzongkhag had initiated winter chilli production involving the farmers of 12 gewogs.

This year with an increasing number of farmers interested in the initiative, the dzongkhag is trying to increase the winter chilli production. The dzongkhag could not meet the target this year.

Authorities in charge said they are learning by trial and error and the dzongkhag has learnt several lessons on how to cultivate chili better.

The dzongkhag has installed a green house and water tanks in the fields. The Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer, Chogyal Dawa said that the department has already started supplying seeds to produce chili from December to March. The initiative was launched with technical support from the Agriculture Research and Development Center (ARDC), Samtenling, Sarpang.

Citing it ambitious, the dzongkhag last year targeted to produce 152 Metric Ton(MT) of chili but managed to produce only 17.27MT on 77 acres. “Farmers are at least happy with the earnings and they got better prices making them more interested,” he said. Farmers sold the chili for Nu 200/kg.

Low soil fertility, high incidences of pest and diseases and incessant rainfall are some challenges that beset chili cultivation in the lower altitudes. The dzongkhag however plans to use bio-fertilizers and compost and protected cultivation technology with support from ARDC.

This year, 95 acres have been identified in lower lying zones for chilli cultivation. The number of farmers who are interested have also increased, according to the DAO. The DAO said that the farmers are motivated due to the facilities being provided by the government such as imported hybrid chili seed. The chilli is generally cultivated on altitudes below 500 feet from the sea level.

Norgaygang Gewog’s Agriculture Extension Officer (AEO), Karma Tenzin said that they also started cultivating chili from this year. Two acres of land have been identified for cultivation in his gewog. Last year, the gewog was not selected citing the high altitude. “We are planning to cultivate this year. The nursery has been raised and is ready for plantation,” he said. Since, the gewog is starting this year on trial, no target has been set. The gewog has formed a farmers’ cooperative with 10 households for cultivation.

Namgaychholing’s gewog AEO, Dorji Wangchuk said that the harvest this time was good. Around 300kg were transported to the the capital last year from the gewog alone. His gewog has however decreased the acreage as the identified locations were mostly located above 500 ft. Namgaychholing gewog alone plans to harvest more than one MT this year.

A farmer in Sangachholing gewog earned around Nu 160,000 last season in his 40d land. Sangachholing gewog AEO, Tshering Lhamo said that around 25 farmers earned around Nu 500,000 last year and this year the number of farmers who want to cultivate chili under the program has increased to 41. The gewog has started chili cultivation on nine acres this year. “While some are skeptical about the harvest, we are encouraging the farmers as facilities are being provided by the government,” said Tshering Lhamo.

The dzongkhag starts chili cultivation from mid-August.

Krishna Ghalley from Samtse