NEW DELHI, June 28 � The Assam government is incentivising farmers cultivating the world�s hottest chilli, Bhot Jolokia, demand for which is rising in the Arabian and European countries, besides Australia and Venezuela.
In 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged Bhot Jolokia as the hottest spice.
The chilli pepper measures 1,001,304 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which means it contains the highest naturally occurring amount of capsaicin (the pungent chemical in chillies) in the world, according to the Guinness Book.
At 15,000-30,000 SHUs, the hari mirch, or green chilli, pales in comparison to the thumb-sized Bhot Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Chilli.
The Andhra Gunture Sannam measures 35,000-40,000 SHUs, the Kashmiri mirch has 1500-2000 SHUs and the Simla mirch zero SHUs.
The Assam government has announced Rs 5,000 per hectare additional incentive money to boost cultivation of the Ghost Chilli, which is 400 times hotter than the Tabasco sauce.
Against Rs 13,000 per hectre provided to cultivator of Bhot Jolokia in 2009-10, the amount has been raised to Rs 18,750 in the current financial year, CR Hazarika, Director In-Charge of State Horticulture Department told PTI over phone.
The sop is provided for purchase of seed and equipment as part of the second generation State Horticulture Mission Programme launched last year, he said.
Besides, the beneficiary also gets one free tubewell under the programme, he added.
Hazarika said in 2009-10, the scheme was launched in three upper Assam districts of Baksa, Golaghat and Nagaon. In the current financial year districts of Golaghat, Karbi Along and Jorhat have been selected, the State Horticulture Director In-Charge said.
Against a target to cover 700 acres of land under the scheme in 2009-10, a total of 490 acres was achieved and a sum of Rs 63.70 lakh out of a total of Rs 91 lakh alloted for the programme was spent, he added.
The fund is made available under the Central government sponsored Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan states, he said.
Besides, the State Horticulture department has roped in Assam Agriculture University to provide technical knowhow to the cultivators, he added.
Senior Deputy Director of Delhi-based National Horticulture Board (NHB) R K Sharma told PTI that the organisation does not have a direct role, but provides assistance to the State government under area expansion programme for open crops.
Bhot Jolokia turned out to be a money spinning crop after it won the Guinness accolade after tests in Mexico State University, US, in which the chilli beat the previous record holder, the SHU Red Savina Habanera.
Attracted by the high yields, more and more farmers in the seven states in India�s north-east are are turning to the crop, Harsh Jyoti Barua, Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Assam Agriculture department, said.
Commercial cultivation of the crop is increasing not only in Assam but has spread to neighbouring states of Nagaland and Tripura too, said sources in Jorhat-based North East Institute of Science and Technology.
The chilli fetches handsome price in the market, and recently the crop gained entry into Poland too.
While Bhot Jolokia is selling at Rs 300-350 per kg in local market, it is rated at Rs 1,500 per kg in Arab countries and is as costly as one US dollar a piece in Germany, he added.
Besides, the health care industry is exploring its use in manufacture of pain-killing creams for arthritis and topical creams for skin disorders, while research is on for use of the pepper sprays in manufacture of teargas shells.
But, the crop is not without its share of woes.
SK Gogoi, Deputy Director of Dispur-based Defence Research Laboratory (DRL), an arm of of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), said it has been noticed that due to viral attack the chilli is losing its hotness.
Research is on to ascertain if it was due to genetic factor, Gogoi said adding the report is expected in two months, he added. �PTI