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Description | Overview | History | Cultivation pattern | Chilli producing countries | Indian chilli market | Major trading centers

Chilli is a fruit of the plants ‘Capsicum annuum’ and ‘Capsicum frutecens’ that come   from the genus Capsicum, belonging to the family of Solanaceae, which also include tomato and potato. These fruits are small in size and are known for their sharp acidic flavor and color. Chillies are said to have originated in the Latin American region and currently is used throughout the world as a spice and is also used in making beverages and medicines.

The chilli plant is a white flowered, dark green or purple leaved plant that grows 1.5 meters in height. The part of the fruit that generates the pungent flavor in the fruit is its membrane and the seeds. Chilli powder is obtained from the crushing process of the dried chillies and has some unique medicinal uses. This fruit is rich in vitamins A, C and E.


Chilli powder is a world renowed spice that is used in many cuisines and recipes of various cultures to add a tingy taste to them. It is often reffered to as a type of pepper due to its matching taste but interestingly it is not even close to the family of piper nigrum rather it belongs to the family of capsicum. Chillies come in different colors, varieties, fragnances, sizes etc but are similar in structure i.e a hollow, seed containing, tube like structure. A substance known by the name of Capsaicin results in the pungent flavor of the fruit.

Both green and dry chillies are produced world over from the chilli crop.  The world production of chilli crop sums up to around 7 million tons that is cultivated on approximately 1.5 million hectares of land. India is the world leader in context  of chilli production followed by China and Pakistan. This shows that the bulk share of chilli production is held by the Asian countries though it is produced throughout the world. The large demand of chilli is made by several chilli consuming countries as it forms part of cuisines of various cultures and is also used as a coloring agent . Most of its demand is generated in the food processing sector. The following countries are the major consumers of the world with India again leading the list

  • India
  • China
  • Mexico
  • Thailand
  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Sweden
As the leading producer of chilli crop in the world, India is also the largest exporter of chilli in the world. It contribues to ¼th share in the total quantity of chilli exported in the world. But China isnt far behind from India and it has been providing a severe competition to the Indian dominance due to India’s variable supply and high domestic consumption.The major chilli exporting players along with their percentage share in the world total exports are
  • India (25%)
  • China (24%)
  • Spain (17%)
  • Mexico (8%)
  • Pakistan (7.2%)
  • Morocco (7%)
  • Turkey (4.5%)

World trade in chillies account to an approximate of 16% in the total spice trade in the world. This share places chilli on the second position after black pepper in the world trade. The following is the list of the leading chilli importing countries in the world

  • United Arab Emirates
  • European Union

  • Sri Lanka

  • Malaysia

  • Japan

  • Korea


Chillies originated in the Latin American regions of New Mexico and Guatemala as a wild crop in around 7500BC. The people native to these places domesticated this crop in 5000BC as per the remains of the pre historic Peru. This crop is said to be the first ever domesticated crop in America. In that time, chillies were cultivated by the farmers with a primary crop to protect the primary crop from any damage that the birds could do. It gained popularity in the American continent as a flavoring and was being largely cultivated since then.

When America was discovered, and the Spaniards and Portuguese explored the South American continent, this pungent flavored fruit gained the much more deserved recognition. Christopher Columbus, the founder of America, was one of the first Europeans who encountered and consumed chilli, and called it peppers due to the similarity in taste. It was found that crushing the dried pods give chilli powder, which later was identified as a substitute of ‘peppercorn’. In some time, chilli earned more recognition as compared to the peppercorns being simpler to produce and a lot too hot from the other spice.

This crop came into the Asian continent in as late as the 16th century with the identification of new sea routes by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. It became popular in the whole of Asia rapidly and native Asians started cultivating this crop here as well. The south Asian climate suited this vegetable crop, and since then the concentration of production of chillies shifted to Asia. In today’s scenario, the most sharp and valued varieties of chilli are grown and present in Asia only.

Cultivation pattern

Chilli crop is a much simpler crop to cultivate. It can survive on different soil types and several climatic conditions. But the best output of this crop is obtained when it is grown on deep, loamy, fertile soil with appropriate moisture content. The soil is ploughed properly at the time of planting of the crop. It has a short duration period of 3 to 4 months.

In Indian subcontinent, chillies are produced throughout the year. Two crops are produced in the year in each dry and wet season in the country. The dry season extends from mid march to August in which the rainfall level is much lower than other parts of the year. That’s why chilli crop requires proper irrigation in this season. The seed or the seedlings are planted in April and are harvested in August in this season. On the other hand, wet season starts from August till December. This season is accompanied with a good amount of rainfall and the crop is planted as and when the rainfall occurs. Harvesting of the crop takes place in December and chillies start reaching the major markets in February and March.

The watering and harvesting of this crop are of utmost importance for the proper growth of the crop. Regular and appropriate watering is required when the chilli plant is at its sprouting stage. Harvesting of the green chilli crop is done when the pods are green and matured. For the harvesting of red chilli crop, the crop has to be harvested late when the green pods dry up and 80% of those become red.

Chilli producing countries

As chilli is a simpler crop to cultivate, it is produced all over the world. The world production level has been on an increasing trend and there has been a significant rise in the production level since the late 1990s. It has reached around 7 million tons now from the figure of 2.5 million tons in the last decade. The major chilli producing nations are

  • India (Asia)

  • China (Asia)

  • Indonesia (Asia)

  • Korea (Asia)

  • Pakistan (Asia)

  • Turkey (Asia)

  • Sri Lanka (Asia)

  • Nigeria (Africa)

  • Ghana (Africa)

  • Tunisia (Africa)

  • Egypt (Africa)

  • Mexico (North America)

  • United States of America (North America)

  • Yugoslavia (Europe)

  • Spain (Europe)

  • Romania (Europe)

  • Bulgaria (Europe)

  • Italy (Europe)

  • Hungary (Europe)

  • Argentina (South America)

  • Peru (South America)

  • Brazil (South America)

The largest producer of chillies in the world is India accounting for 11 lakh tons of production annually followed by China with a production of around 4 lakh tons, Mexico with the production of around 3 lakh tons and Pakistan also producing 3 lakh tons of chilli every year. India also leads in the context of maximum area covered in the cultivation of chillies.

Production of chilli in India

As already mentioned, India is the largest producer of chillies in the world. Its production level hovers around 1.1 million tons annually. India also has the maximum area dedicated to the production of this crop. The major regions where chilli is cultivated in India are

  • Guntur (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Warangal (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Khammam (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Krishna (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Prakasham (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Pundur (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Nizamabad (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Cuddpah (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Rajamundry (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Nellore (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Dharwad (Karnataka)

  • Mysore (Karnataka)

  • Hasan (Karnataka)

  • Bangalore (Karnataka)

  • Bellary (Karnataka)

  • Ranibennur (Karnataka)

  • Hubli (Karnataka)

  • Gadag (Karnataka)

  • Byadgi (Karnataka)

  • Nasik (Maharashtra)

  • Ahmednagar (Maharashtra)

  • Sholapur (Maharashtra)

  • Aurangabad (Maharashtra)

  • Nanded (Maharashtra)

  • Amravati (Maharashtra)

  • Lasalgaon (Maharashtra)

  • Bareily (Uttar Pradesh)

  • Khurja (Uttar Pradesh)

  • Amristar (Punjab)

  • Nabha (Punjab)

  • Patiala (Punjab)

  • Sunam (Punjab)

  • Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu)

  • Ramanathapuram (Tamil Nadu)

  • Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu)

  • Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu)

  • Virudunagar (Tamil Nadu)

  • Kanayakumari (Tamil Nadu)

  • Madurai (Tamil Nadu)

  • Salem (Tamil Nadu)

  • Tiruchi (Tamil Nadu)

  • Villupuram (Tamil Nadu)

  • Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu)

  • Jodhpur (Rajasthan)

  • Ajmer (Rajasthan)

  • Bhilwara (Rajasthan)

  • Pali (Rajasthan)

  • Sikar (Rajasthan)

  • Bharatpur (Rajasthan)

  • Swaimadhopur (Rajasthan)

  • Orissa

  • West Bengal

  • Madhya Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh stands first in the list of leading chilli-producing states in India and also constitutes the maximum acreage for chilli cultivation in the country. It occupies 49% share in the Indian total production and produces around 2.7 lakh tons of chillies. Karnataka follows Andhra Pradesh, which share 14% of the production in the country. The major chilli producing states in India namely Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu contribute to around 86% of total area for the chilli crop cultivation in the country and 90% of the total Indian produce.

Indian chilli market

Though chillies were introduced to India very late after they were discovered, the delay couldn’t lessen this country’s love for this so popular flavoring agent. Indians adopted chillies ever since it was brought into the country and it became an integral part of the Indian culture. Till today many superstitions are related with chillies and it is hanged up at the door with a few lemons as it is considered that this act will guard the house from the evil.

Currently, chillies are produced through the length and breadth of the country making the most dominating player in the world market. India produces the maximum amount of chillies in the world figuring up to around 11 lakh tons and is also the leading country in context of area covered in chilli production. This crop is cultivated in almost all the states of the country, Andhra Pradesh being the leader of all. It contributes to approximately 25% of the total production. The varieties of chilli produced by India are Sannam, LC 334, Byadgi, Wonder Hot, Jwala etc.

India is also the largest consumer and exporter of this crop. It consumes around 6.2 million tons of chillies i.e. about 90% of the total produce of the country. The demand from the chilli powder-producing sector constitutes to 30% of the total production in the country. Exports of chillies sum up to around 100000 tons, which makes 33% of the total spices exported from the country. The Indian exports in 2003-04 were valued at 366.80 crores. Chilli powder, dried chillies, pickled chillies and chilli oleoresins are some of the forms in which this crop is exported. The major importers of chillies from India are

  • United States of America

  • Sri Lanka

  • Bangladesh

  • Nepal

  • Mexico

  • Canada

  • United Kingdom

  • Saudi Arabia

  • Singapore

  • Malaysia

  • Germany

Though Indian exports are showing satisfactory trends, nowadays India is facing a very tough competition in the international export market as price of the Indian chilli powder is considered too high for the market and other competitive countries are providing chilli at very competitive rates to the major importing countries. If the country is able to meet the strict quality demands of the international market, the exports can be further improved. Steps have to be taken by the government encouraging the exporters to maintain the Indian dominance in the world market.

Market Influencing Factors

  • Seasonal price fluctuations

  • Overall production in the country

  • World demand

  • Stock available in cold storages

  • Hedging among the various varieties of chilli

Major trading centers of chilli

The major trading centers of chilli and chilli powder in India are

  • Guntur –largest chilli market in the world (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Warangal (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Khammam (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Hindpur (Andhra Pradesh)

  • Raichur (Karnataka)

  • Bellary (Karnataka)

  • Unjha (Gujarat)

  • Chennai

  • Kolkata

  • Mumbai

  • Delhi

  • Ahmedabad

  • Nagpur

Chilli is also traded in the Indian commodity exchanges namely National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange of India ltd and Multi Commodity Exchange of India ltd

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