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Chilli flavour in Assam tea gardens
- Planters spare space for bhut jolokia

Guwahati, May 6: Tea bushes will soon be jostling for space with bhut jolokia with garden managements seeing hot business opportunities in the latter.

Several big companies having tea gardens in Assam have decided to go in for bhut jolokia plantation in a massive way.

A kilo of bhut jolokia, also known as Noga jolokia in the region, fetches prices between Rs 300-Rs 400. Sources in the industry said the idea to go for bhut jolokia plantations was born after the army decided to make grenades out of the world’s hottest chilli.

“Apart form the medicinal value, the chilli now also has an industrial use. In days to come it will be in great demand,” a senior official of a leading tea company told The Telegraph today.

The official said the first bhut jolokia plantations would be carried out in vacant areas in selected gardens of the company but later on more areas would be included.

“If the business turns out to be good, we will carry out bhut jolokia plantations in all our gardens,” he said.

Bhut jolokia came into fame soon after Guinness World Records declared it as the world’s hottest chilli in 2007. Besides its taste, the chilli is eaten for its remedial features like cure for stomach troubles and also helps in beating the summer heat.

Janardan Bezbarua, an expert on ayurvedic medicines, said Bhut jolokia has tremendous medicinal value and is commonly used as a counter-irritant. “It contains a pigment call capsicism which is used in making medicines,” he said.

The chilli has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chilli’s spicyness.

Tea companies in Assam had gone for diversification, with several gardens in the state taking up citronella — an oil bearing plant — cultivation, about a decade back.

Recently, a few gardens have taken up black pepper cultivation, with the shade trees in tea plantations being used as support for the pepper plant, which is a creeper.

Bhut Jolokia plant will be the latest addition to tea plantations.

Laljit Paswan, senior scientist at the Assam Agricultural University, said that not only the tea gardens but individual farmers are going for bhut jolokia cultivation in a huge way in recent times in the state.

“With the army making grenades from bhut jolokia, the demand for the hottest chilli is increasing every day. The chilli has got tremendous business potential now,” Paswan, who is doing extensive research on bhut jolokia, said.

He said the state government has recently started bhut jolokia cultivation in about 300 acres of scattered lands in lower Assam districts. Paswan said the Assam Agricultural University has been trying to procure a geographical identification (GI) for bhut jolokia.

“Since the chilli is common to this region, we are trying to get a recognition for it,” he said.

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