GUWAHATI, Aug 17 � Assam�s famed bhot jalakia, the chilli that has earned the fame as the hottest chilli on earth in terms of Scoville units and found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, is now in peril. The DDT, which is regarded to be the only shield in this part of the globe against vector-borne diseases, is found to be the spoil-sport in this case.
According to sources in the State Horticulture Directorate, samples of the chilli sent for testing have revealed presence of chemicals of organo-chlorine groups. In the European Union, the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for these chemicals should not exceed 0.5 mg per kg. But the tested samples are found to contain the chemical marginally more than this permissible limit. Countries like USA, however, do not allow even traces of these chemicals.
Sources said that interaction with stakeholders at the ground level revealed that use of chemicals containing organo-chlorine groups like DDT to check malaria by Health Department might have contaminated the soil and thus the residue of the chemical has gained access to the crop.
As the DDT group of chemicals is being used extensively by health department, it became most easily available chemical for the farmers to use against any disease of the crops without knowing its consequences. There is a belief amongst some farmers that it is the panacea to �every ill�.
The sad part is that these exporters are unable to deal in hottest chilli despite their keen interests to export the item, because of the presence of traces these chemicals.
Former Director of Horticulture Dr Harshajyoti Barooah, who initiated the bhot jalakia project, sought the help of Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), the marketing facilitator of the chilli variety. But the residual presence of the objectionable chemicals in the test samples of the produce as well as the soil on which the crops of the chilli were grown, has made it impossible to export the hottest chilli.
Dr Barooah has suggested that besides imparting adequate training to farmers on the mandatory application of organic farming practices, particularly when the cultivation is for export, Assam Agricultural University should conduct a series of on-farm trials on the fields of the farmers, in strategic locations, to practically demonstrate how to go ahead with bhot jalakia in an organic way.
This will ensure higher renumeration to the growers and establish an export link for this high value crop to augment farmers� income, Dr Barooah said, reminding that bhot jalakia is highly susceptible to various pests and diseases.
It needs mention here that in keeping with the global demand of bhot jalakia, the Directorate of Horticulture and Food Processing took up initiatives for widespread cultivation of this crop in select districts in 2009-10. Till that time the crop was grown in an unorganised manner.
Farmers were trained in the production technology of this chilli variety and provided support to cultivate it under Horticulture Technology Mission. Amidst farmers� enthusiasm and numbers of pest and pathogenic problems, the crop gradually started spreading in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Nagaon, Karbi Anglong, Sivasagar, Baksa, Sonitpur, etc., particularly along the foot-hill areas.
In the production technology, equal emphasis was attached to adopting organic cultivation practices as it is vital for the external markets, sources said.
In 2009-10, bhot jalakia crops were grown on an area of 100 hectares in Baksa and Nagaon districts and in an area of 500 hectares in Golaghat district under the scheme of Horticulture Mission for Northeast and Himalayan States.
In 2010-11, additional 150 hectares in Golaghat district, 50 hectares in Jorhat district and 100 hectares in Karbi Anglong were added to the above area for growing the hottest chilli.
The farmers of Sivasagar and Sonitpur districts took up Bhot Jalakia cultivation on their own, said the sources.