Earn more from chillies through value addition

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Do you know that you can earn yourself extra income by adding value to chilli? You can give chilli powder a more pleasant taste and aroma by adding dry ingredients like coriander (dania), garlic, ginger, small fish and salt before crushing in the mill.

Across the world, chilli is used to flavour many dishes. In Kenya, the coastal region people are known for their love of chilli in spicing food, the urban dwellers enjoy a spread of chilli in their chips and among the Asian communities, chilli is a welcome addition to any food. Even though it is known for its hot spicy flavor, chilli is also a great source of vitamins. Chilli can be used in various forms; fresh, ground paste, sauce or powder.

Good income from chilli

Many consumers prefer to have chilli as a powder. Making chilli powder is a good way to make money and it does not require a lot of time to do this. Kenyan farmers can learn from West African business people who are reaping from the chilli powder business.

Alice Agossadou and Bernadette Ekpinda are chilli farmers who sell their products at a market in Cotonou, Benin. Retailers and wholesalers come from very far away to get their supplies. “We pay the children’s school fees and other household needs through sale of chillies,” says Agossadou. Ekpinda has also benefited from selling chillies: “My son has already finished his studies and is now a teacher through proceeds from my chilli sales." For the several years she has been in the chilli business, Aubierge Djossinou has supplied customers such as restaurants, shop owners and people who frequent her little spice shop in Cotonou, Benin.

Ensure chilli quality to retain customers

“It is very important to have a product that does not change, that is of the same quality, the same taste, the same color and that is well packaged,” advises Djossinou. If you want to make chilli powder of high and consistent quality, use only chillies that are of one variety.

Chilli meant for making powder is best harvested without the stalk attached to the fruits because after crushing the chillies these stalks will leave small black particles in the powder. The quality of the chilli powder also depends on the care you put into it. Therefore, clean the chilli peppers first and remove the rotten ones. Remove any stems that still remain in the fruits.

Although most processors buy whole dried chilli fruits from the market, they sort, wash and dry it before turning it to powder.

How to dry chillies before grinding

To obtain high quality chilli powder, the chillies must be very dry. Farmers can dry their chilli in a gas drier overnight. The clean chilli is spread out on trays with mesh so that the hot air reaches the chillies and removes all the moisture.

Check regularly to see if the chillies are dry and change the position of the tray in the drier to ensure uniform drying. You can also dry chilli in the sun. Spread the fruit in the sun on a clean mat. Turn the chillies over every hour to ensure uniform drying. Dry them for five to ten days depending on the weather. To be sure that your chilli is dry, press some chillies in your hand. Well dried chillies make a cracking sound when you squeeze them.

Improving chilli taste

To give the powder more pleasant taste and aroma, some processors add other ingredients to the dry chilli before crushing it in the mill. “We sell two cans of chilli powder, with or without extra ingredients. I add pepper, garlic, dry ginger, small fish and salt, so that it has a nice taste.” Says Agossadou,

Apart from taste, salt also helps to better preserve chilli powder. Ekpinda has processed chilli for more than 20 years. “While crushing chillies, we must add salt because it keeps away the weevils and small red insects and the chilli powder will store well, even for a year,” she advises. Be careful when grinding chilli. The chilli dust can burn your bare skin and irritate your eyes.

Grind the dried chilli in a mill repeatedly until you obtain a fine powder. The mill should only be used to grind chillies and spices.

Package well to maintain quality

In rural areas, chilli is crushed at the mill at night. Before grinding, remove the flour that is still at the mill or it will spoil your chilli powder. After crushing the chilli, allow it to cool down completely before putting it into containers. This is to avoid the powder getting moist and mouldy.

Maintain hygiene

Hygiene is important at all times. If you are using recycled bottles, wash them thoroughly with detergent, water and bleach and rinse them well. Keep them clean and dry. You can seal the bottles with transparent adhesive cellotape so that moisture does not enter the bottles and spoil the powder. A printed label that shows the brand name and the date of expiration should be added in the container.

Now you can earn from your labour because chilli powder is sold at a good price since not many people have discovered income generation through value addition.

Additional reporting and photographs by Access Agriculture. To watch or download a video of drying chilli visit their website: www.accessagriculture.org

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