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Growth push for Dalle Khursani or red cherry pepper chilli from hills three years after earning GI tag

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to widen market for one of the hottest chillies in the world through tie-up with famous Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 29.04.24, 10:21 AM
Dalle Khursani

Dalle Khursani File picture

Efforts are underway to systematically grow and market Dalle Khursani or red cherry pepper chilli three years after it earned the geographic indication (GI) tag.

US-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to widen the market for one of the hottest chillies in the world through a tie-up with the famous Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong.


The Gates Foundation has engaged Grant Thornton Bharat, an Indian management consulting firm, to explore the possibility of enhancing alternative incomes among tea workers. The tie-up was facilitated by the Darjeeling Welfare Society.

At Makaibari, the Grant Thornton team is prioritising the cultivation of Dalle Khursani and honey in the garden to create more livelihood opportunities. The team is also helping the 40-odd homestays in the garden to upgrade their marketing skills.

Among the 500 families identified in Makaibari tea garden, 250 families are being encouraged to grow the chilli, while 50 families are currently being encouraged to farm honey. The remaining are being motivated to start dairy farming.

“We want to create market linkages for Dalle Khursani and also honey and we are working towards it,” Chiraj Jain, partner, Grant Thornton Bharat, told The Telegraph.

In 2021, Dalle Khursani earned the GI tag from the Union department of industry promotion and internal trade. A GI is a name or a sign given to a product that relates to a specific geographical location or origin.

The GI tag for Dalle Khursani has been earmarked for Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Despite getting the GI tag many felt that promotion or utilisation of the tag for the product was largely lacking.

“Locals are bottling the chilli but large-scale market linkages have not yet been established,” said an owner of a pickle-bottling unit in Darjeeling. “Also, there is no large-scale farming of the chilli.”

Against this background, the initiative at Makaibari is being welcomed.

The chilli is known to have a Scoville scale in the range of 1,00,000 to 3,50,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) and is among the hottest varieties in the world. The Scoville scale is a measurement used to trace the spiciness of chilli peppers across the world.

Many in the region swear by the distinct flavour of the chilli. The other product from Darjeeling to get a GI tag is Darjeeling Tea. It was the first product from India to get a GI tag.

Sources said that attempts were also being made to get better prices for honey with better market linkages.

“A 750ml of honey is being sold for around Rs 1,000 in the region. The prices can go up,” Jain said.

Makaibari tea garden, which was set up in 1859, has in the past taken up numerous initiatives to enhance the livelihood of the workers.

“The garden is also providing cows to the workers with a promise to buy back milk and also dung to prepare vermicompost to be used in the organic garden,” said
a source.

The Gates Foundation is also currently working in two other gardens — Panighatta and Moondakothi — at the moment.

“We are working with around 2,000 households but our plan is to touch almost 20,000 tea garden households,” said Jain. The Grant Thronton team is based in the tea gardens monitoring every aspect of the project.

“The alternative livelihood model that Makaibari is undertaking has been much appreciated,” said a source.

The garden has created a niche for itself in the industry. In 2014, Makaibari’s Silver Tips Imperial was sold at Rs 1.17 lakh per kg.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2016, he gifted her a packet of Makaibari tea.

The brew from Makaibari was also served to the participants and staff members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

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