The steep fall in the prices of yellow lantern chilli (Capsicum Chinese), popularly known in the High Ranges as Male mulaku, has severely hit the prospects of farmers, especially in the post-Ramzan period.
Procurement agencies attribute this to high production and decline in demand in Male, which is a major export market. During the Ramzan period, the price was ₹90 a kg, which has now fallen to ₹30 a kg. Farmers in the High Ranges cultivate Male mulaku as an intercrop that provides additional income, especially during the monsoon period.
The cultivation of Male mulaku spread to some pockets in Kattappana nearly two decades ago. It is a favourite chilli in Male for its hot and distinct taste.
The highest price this year was ₹160 a kg, says Murali, a staff at a procurement centre.
The highest in recent times was ₹250 a kg, he says and added that the daily arrival has increased with the monsoon season. “The sunny days with rain have resulted in a bumper production,” he says.
It is now a main chilli used in the southern districts of Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. Male mulaku is mainly used in fish curries in place of the normal green chilli. The prices were once dependent on the demand for it in Male. However, procurement agencies here say there has been a fall in demand in Male after the festival season owing to increased level of internal production and availability of it from other neighbouring countries. However, its demand in the southern districts has increased with agencies daily collecting it from the farmers.
The price should be at least ₹50 a kg considering its cost of production, says Devassia, a farmer. He says he cultivated Male mulaku on leased land in addition as intercrop in his pepper farm. If irrigation facilities are available, Male mulaku can be harvested in all seasons. It is cultivated as intercrop to almost all crops such as banana, ginger or with cash crops, he said.
However, daily care is needed as the ripened one has to be plucked at the right time. The red chilli is not taken by the procurement agencies.
The harvested chillies should be taken to the procurement centre the same day, says Mr. Devassia.