The chilli crop in Vidarbha is reported to have been hit by a virus. The infection may bring the yield down by almost 50%, say sources in the trade. Not only those in Vidarbha but even growers in Madhya Pradesh have been hit by the virus, where the crisis is reported to be worse.

An official in the state's agriculture department dealing with vegetable cultivation said there had been an attack of the churda-murda virus. Around 50,000 hectares area in the Nagpur division is under chilli cultivation. The majority is in Nagpur district at over 37,000 hectares.

Sanjay Wadhwani of M/s Dwarkadas Lakhimchand said the crisis was worse in Madhya Pradesh where the crop was expected to be down to 30%. In Vidarbha as against an average yield of 13 to 15 quintals, the produce is expected to be a 8 to 9 quintals per acre. "Chilli arrivals begin from December- January onwards. In Madhya Pradesh, chillies are grown in Khandwa, Kharaon, Bedia districts. As against 50 lakh bags around 15-20 lakh bags are expected this year from Madhya Pradesh," said Wadhwani. The rates are Rs100 to 105 a kg as compared to Rs80 in the previous year, which is not much to compensate for the loss in output, he said.

Kishor Tiwari, who heads state government Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swalamban Mission (VNSSM), said he will be taking up the issue through this agency. "This is the third cash crop to be hit. I had toured farms in Katol tehsil of Nagpur where I came across chilli growers reporting heavy losses," he said.