Most Bhutanese love chilli on their menu and in every meal. It comes in different shapes and sizes and often with varied spiciness. In Chhubu Gewog’s Yebisa Chiwog in Punakha, farmers are working through the winter to ensure Bhutanese do not run out of local chillies. Almost all the farmers in the Chiwog are engaged in raising chilli seedlings for commercial purpose.
56-year-old, Ap Namgay, has been busy nursing and weeding his chilli seedlings for the past few days.
From dawn to dusk, Ap Namgay tends to his chilli seedlings. He is more than excited this time as his seedlings are growing.
Ap Namgay’s wife accompany him in their field. The couple has been raising chilli seedlings for commercial purpose for a few years now.
For the duo, raising and selling seedlings is more convenient than selling ripe chillis.
After making Nu 50,000 selling seedlings last year, they sowed the chilli seeds in their 70 decimal land this time.
Namgay says chilli seedling business is convenient for them. “We do not have to work that much for it. It just requires some weeding and then we can sell it directly for money. But for chillies, we must firstly transplant it, and we then have to sell it after picking. Moreover, chillies are affected by pests. We fetch around thirty to forty thousand ngultrum by selling seedlings.”
With demand for seedlings increasing, the couple and other villagers are taking full advantage of the winter season.
“This time I have sown chilli seedlings in forty-eight beds. I have already received demand for the seedlings from six people. So, I am wondering whether my chilli seedlings would sufficient. Still then I would be able to sell it after my transplantation, as I have sown more seeds this time,” Namgay added.
With access to market aplenty, other villagers are also raising chilli seedlings on a commercial scale.
Wangchuk, another chilli seedling grower says almost all the people from different places come to their place to buy chilli seedlings. “We take it to the town to sell only if we cannot finish selling from our nursery. I have sown seeds in two terraces of paddy fields last year and fetched around thirty thousand ngultrum. So, I have sown more chilli seeds this year.”
Sonam who is also from Yebisa started sowing chilli seeds after fetching good prices. She is working hard this season as well. “This year I am expecting to fetch around Nu 20,000 since I could not do more work like others, as I do not have enough manpower. I got only around Nu 10,000 last year.”
Likewise, Daw, who also started growing chilli seedlings says he started the cultivation after seeing his neighbours making good income. “I am expecting good returns this year. So, I am planning to sell chilli seedlings for Nu 150 per bunch.”
The seeds were sown towards the end of December last year. Farmers are expecting to sell the seedlings by early April.
Yebisa Chiwog has more than 40 households today.