KUNRI: Chilli growers of Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Badin districts would be provided equipment and machinery on a co-sharing basis to improve quality of chillies by reducing aflotoxin, enhance value chain and increase exports under the Rs1,810.25 million Sindh Agriculture Growth Project (SAGP) with assistance from the World Bank.
At a distribution ceremony held on Wednesday, Project Director SAGP Shahjahan Hashmani said the World Bank supported project aims to save red chillies from aflatoxin and fungus.
On the occasion, 430 green nets, drying mats, and plastic baskets were distributed among growers of the region.
Mian Saleem, president of Red Chilli Growers Association Sindh and Chairman Chilli Focal Group Umerkot, said Umerkot is a hub of red-chilli production.
“Dandi-cut and round chilli were produced in Umerkot district and now the hybrid Marvi chilli has been added. Kunri’s red chilli market is one of the largest chilli markets in Asia, where around 10,000 bags of chilli are received daily. This year, the crop has doubled,” he said. He deplored that the area lacked facilities including processing, storage, etc.
He pointed out that previously chilli was cultivated at 85,000 acres which has jumped to 1,75,000 acres this year.
“The area needs well-equipped modern laboratories for testing the quality and aflatoxin level as well as equipment and facilities for keeping the produce safe from rain and natural elements,” he added.
Grower Ghulam Akbar Dars said low yielding seeds, lack of access to modern farming practices and techniques, and high levels of aflatoxin in locally dried chilli were major issues faced by local farmers. These issues don’t allow our produce to meet international export standards, he added.
“Traditional practice of drying chillies on the ground results in infestation with high levels of aflatoxin which can cause liver cancer. Some 40-300 ppm aflatoxin was found in our chilli due to which it was rejected by exporters,” he said.
Our correspondent from Hyderabad adds: Project Director SAGP Shahjahan Hashmani said under the project, growers receive premium for drying chilli produce on sheets, thereby minimising aflatoxin in the crop.
Besides, a sum of Rs12.883m has been allocated for improvement of Chilli Research Station Kunri with an objective of augmenting research activities for development of chilli crops new technologies and varieties, he added.
He said the project would focus on improvement in yields and reducing level of aflatoxins in chilli crop.
Reduction in aflatoxin is directly in response to urgent need of improved food safety of chilli crop for domestic market and facilitating international exports, thus boosting farmer incomes and foreign exchange earnings.
He said the project includes public-private partnership involving Chilli Growers Association to establish a common facility centre in Kunri which would house equipment to improve post-harvest handling of chillies.