In a bid to give a boost to falling production of the chilli crop in Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh, the state government has unveiled a mascot named “chilli chacha” for better marketing of the famous spice.

The move comes against the backdrop of a drop in the cultivation of chilli apparently due to lack of interest from farmers in Nimar which is known for chilli pepper production.

“We want to enhance chilli production in the Nimar region to boost the income of farmers. For this purpose, the government has unveiled the ‘Chilli Chacha’ mascot,” said State Horticulture and Food Processing Commissioner M Kali Durai.

Kali Durai also informed that a “gene bank” will be created to save the original varieties of chillies grown in the region.

The mascot was launched in the first such “chilli festival” organised on Saturday and Sunday in Khargone district, which is the largest producer of chillies in the state.

As per government data, the annual chilli production in Madhya Pradesh is currently around 2.18 lakh tonnes, which includes 54,451 tonnes or 25 per cent from five districts in Nimar region, namely Khargone, Dhar, Khandwa, Barwani and Alirajpur.

According to agricultural experts, chilli production dipped in the Nimar region over the years due to reasons like local farmers preferring cotton and other crops. Moreover, the chilli crop is prone to attack by viruses.

Officials said a committee of experts had been set up to chalk out a strategy to protect the chilli crop from the viral attack which will submit its report in 15 days.