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Updated 16:00 IST 28 Aug 2014

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Know Chilli
Chilli, considered a native of South America, is an indispensable spice in the food habits of most people in the world. The colour and pungency differentiates chillies from other spices. Apart from culinary purposes, chillies are also used in medicinal applications and beverages.

Chilli is fruit of plants belonging to Capsicum genus. Capsicum is derived from the Greek word "Kapsimo" meaning "to bite." Chilli is an indispensable spice used as basic ingredient in everyday cuisine all over the world. The chilli powder is made by crushing the dried chilli having chilli flakes and chilli pods.

Chilli is produced across India. It is known by its quality which differs from state to state. Karnataka quality is known for its high oil contents, Gujarat quality is known for its sharp colour, Rajasthan quality is loved by pickles makers, Assam quality is famous for its hard taste and AP quality is preferred by non-vegetarian people. China is the only competitor for India in this commodity.

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Christopher Columbus called chilli as 'pepper.' The misnomer pepper was used because Christopher thought it belonged to black pepper family.

The term 'chile' is not to be confused with the country Chile. The Americans followed the Spanish spelling 'chile.' Although its fruit is known as aji. Chili is popular too, but it is often confused with the official state dish of Texas 'chilli'.

Chili (chili con carne) is commonly used in European countries. Although in Oxford English Dictionary, it has the spelling chilli. In India, it is spelled as chilli. However, the common term used for chilli is 'Mirchi' in Hindi language.

India is the largest producer and consumer of chillies in the world with a contribution of nearly 25 percent of the global output. The average production in India is estimated to be around slightly above one million tons per year.

Climatic conditions and global demand-supply are the major variables that make chillies hotter in terms of price. Since India is the largest producer and consumer of chillies, any decline in output would have an immediate impact on prices.

The crop is available throughout the year in many parts of India. The major harvest season is between December-March with supply reaching peak levels in February-April. Planting is held mainly during August-October.

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The main physical market of chillies in the country--Guntur in Andhra Pradesh--is also rated as the largest of its kind in Asia. In peak season, the Guntur market alone handles nearly one billion bags of chillies (a bag contains 35-50 kg) worth Rupees 500 crore. Other major markets are Khammam and Warangal in Andhra Pradesh and Bellary and Raichur in Karnataka. Over 30 percent of chillies produced in India are converted into powder with brands accounting for slightly over 5 percent of the powder.

Several varieties of chillies are available in India. Most popular amongst them are Sanam, Bydagi, Wonder, Hot, Jwala and LC334.

India is also a major exporter of chillies as it contributes nearly 33 percent of the total quantity of Indian spice exports. Major destinations of Indian exports are countries in West Asia, Far East, USA, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India also exports chillies oleoresins in good quantities.