Mrunal Manmay Dash

The hopes for obtaining a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the famous Kuchinda chilli in Sambalpur district increased after a report by the Spices Board of India (SBI) found its quality as the best in India.

The chilli specific to the Kuchinda region of the Western-Odisha district is very hot in nature and is cultivated by the local farmers as a cash crop.

Though the locals and farmers have been demanding a GI tag for the spice since years, it could not be materialised owing to alleged administrative apathy.

However, the hopes for the coveted tag have been resurrected with a report by the Spices Board affiliated SGS lab report. As per the report, the pungency of the Kuchinda chilli is far superior even from many other chillies with the GI tag in India. The report was published after the ORMAS (Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society) sent some samples to the lab for quality testing.

Secretary of the Kuchinda Regulated Market Committee (RMC), Manoj Mahanta said, “We at the RMC had sent some chilli samples to the testing lab in Kochi and the results are encouraging. The pungency and other qualities of Kuchinda chilli are far better than other chillies.”

“We had sent the test report to some of the major export companies who agreed to buy from us provided we produce it in mass scale to cater to international clients,” Mahanta added.

Kuchinda red chilli, popularly known as ‘Bamra chilli’, has earned a distinct identity like Guntur chilli over the years. Earlier, traders from across the country camped at Kuchinda to procure the chilli, but lack of promotion and marketing facilities forced farmers to opt out of cultivating it.

Kiran Mohapatra, local farmer said, “Market is our primary issue. Thanks to the administration, our lands are now irrigated. But the unavailability of market for the farmers to sell their produce in big amount has forced many to opt out of the trade.”

Former Kuchinda MLA, Rabi Narayan Naik pinned hope on the GI tag terming it as the right opportunity to expand the market.

“The GI tag would definitely bring smile in the faces of all the farmers of Kuchinda area. It will give the much needed push to the farmers to continue growing this special chilli in order to get profit. The Spices Board lab report is the first step in securing a GI tag.”

According to researchers, chilli cultivation became popular in Kuchinda in 1901 when the area was part of Bamanda (Deogarh) kingdom. The erratic and deficit rainfall in the region led the then king of Bamanda Basudev Sudhal Dev to substitute paddy crop with chilli cultivation to tide over farm crisis. It later proved to be a long term solution.