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Until a couple of years ago, cultivation of Bhut Jolokia, a variety of chili was confined to kitchen gardens. During the financial year 2009-2010, the Assam Government, under the horticulture technology mission has taken up 500 hectares of land for cultivation of Bhut Jolokia. Farmers are provided incentives for the cultivation.

Against Rs 13,000 per hectre provided to cultivator of Bhut Jolokia in 2009-10, the amount has been raised to Rs 18,750 in the current financial year, C R Hazarika, Director In-Charge of State Horticulture Department said. The sop is provided for purchase of seed and equipment as part of the second generation state horticulture mission programme launched last year, he said. Besides, the beneficiary also gets one free tube well under the programme, he added. Source: PTI.

So, what is Bhut Jolokia? Bhut Jolokia, also called Naga Jolokia, and ghost chilli, is a naturally occurring inter-specific hybrid indigenous to the Assam region of northeastern India. It has been eaten in northeast India for centuries. Locals use this chili for making pickles. In February 2007, the Guinness World Records named it the hottest chilli pepper.  Cultivation of this variety of pepper has increased because of its high export value. While it sells at Rs. 300 to Rs.350 per kg in the local market, it reportedly fetches Rs. 1,500 per kg in Arab countries.

Scoville value of Bhut Jolokia. Image Source: http://assamfoodie.wordpress.com

Image above shows the ‘spicyness’ index or ‘Scoville’ value of Bhut Jolokia.

Commercial cultivation of the crop is increasing and has spread to neighbouring states of Nagaland and Tripura too.

Apart from Bhut Jolokia’s laurels as the hottest pepper in the world, different experiments on its uses including in the health care industry, and defence industry has increased its demand.

The north-east region of India has been gripped by violence and bloodshed for more than a decade now. Amidst the increasing crisis of the dominant tea industry, cultivation of Bhut Jolokia brings a ray of hope for farmers of this region.