CHILLI crop is being hit by constant water shortage in its traditional areas of cultivation, fed by the Nara canal system while its picking is tardy with the decline in prices because of imports from India.

Growers see their incomes falling sharply this season.

Red chilli is mainly grown in Kunri of Umerkot district and in areas of Nabisar and Naukot sub-divisions. Farmers complain that even when water flows improve at Sukkur and Kotri barrages, they are denied enough water, and the crop gets susceptible to termite attack. The plants at present are weak and the non-availability of water would affect its growth, flowering and fruiting.

However, moderate rains or water availability, at this stage, can help.

The crop grown in Thatta and Badin districts are in small quantities and have started reaching Kunri’s chilli market. Farmers believe that traders in Punjab have stocked imported Chilli and that’s why the crop’s prices have dropped.

Chilli was sold for Rs18,000-20,000 per maund in 2011-12 season but now it is fetching Rs8000-9000 per maund. Producers say that import of India’s produce this February has affected its price.

“We got water 28 days after the crop cultivation though the crop has to be given water within one week of its sowing,” says Mohammad Ameen Arain from Kunri, who has grown chilli on 100 acres. The crop is sown in March. It usually yields around five to six pickings. “We need full supply of water in June normally but it was not provided although Nara had enough water flows”, he added.

Irrigation authorities are not making water available to us in areas of Nabisar and Naukot subdivisions of Mithrao canal,” he says and, adds they are being subjected to unjustified rotational programme.

According to him, for sowing chilli growers arranged rainwater through tankers from pools in UC Sher Khan Chandio. Rainwater was drained out at the tail end of cultivation areas of Kunri to irrigate crops. “Growers have preferred sowing chilli instead of cotton as last year we got Rs18,000 to Rs19,000 per maund for chilli”, he adds. Picking will now gain pace in September and would continue till November. The total area of cultivation varies from 56,000 hectares to 36,000 hectares in different years.

A chilli grower Mohammad Saleem sayst that one acre on average yields 30 to 35 maunds of crop.

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