Rain takes the masala out of Punjab chilli growers’ profit

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Punjab’s chilli growers are finding the crop too hot to handle. With rains wreaking havoc, more than 70% of the crop has perished in the Malwa belt.

The consumers are also feeling the sting as high demand for chilli has resulted in its prices shooting up. “Last year, the chillies were being sold between Rs 300 and Rs 1,500 per quintal. This year, the prices have zoomed up to Rs 2,500-Rs 4,000 per quintal,” said sources.

The total area under the chilli cultivation was increased to 7,000 hectares this year as farmers were encouraged to grow it under the crop-diversification programme of the state agriculture department. In Bathinda, the maximum area under chilli is in Sangat Mandi where farmers have grown the crop on more than 150 acres. “Chilli was in abundance last year, so we failed to fetch a good price. This year, the prices have gone up but we don’t have a good yield”, said Pali Mashana, a farmer from the Machhana village.

Many villages in the area have suffered more than 70% damage to the chilli crop. “Those farmers who failed to drain water out of their fields have suffered the maximum damage,” said Kaka Singh, whose entire crop on 1.5 acres has perished.

Farmers had got a yield of up to 200 quintals per acre last year. This time, the yield has reduced by 50%, said sources.

A horticulture officer in Chandigarh said the maximum damage has been reported in Ferozepur and Malout area of Muktsar due to water-logging. Reports of damage have also poured in from other areas, including Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala.

Agriculture Minister Tota Singh said: “We know the problem is grave, but we can’t do much. We don’t receive any Central grants to compensate chilli growers,” he said, adding that he was in touch with growers and has visited affected chilli farms.

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