The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Food supplies dry up as downpour drags on
- Green prices zoom

Calcutta, Oct. 22: The greens are going under water and government officials warn that prices will soon hit the roof.

Supply of vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, radish, tomato and gourd has been badly hit because of the ongoing deluge, causing prices to go up.

According to D. Konar, director of agriculture, about 20,000 hectares of vegetable-growing land in North and South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore is now flooded.

'Of all the agriculture losses in the current flood and waterlogging, the most damage has occurred in the vegetable sector. The standing crops of all leafy vegetables in these districts have been destroyed. Even the seed beds prepared for sowing winter vegetables have been inundated. Consequently, there will be no vegetable production from these districts over the next one-and-a-half months,' Konar said.

The three districts, along with Hooghly and Burdwan, account for over 90 per cent of Calcutta's vegetable supply, he added. Vegetables will now have to be brought from Murshidabad, Nadia, Birbhum and districts in north Bengal. The scarcity will trigger a sharp rise in prices, Konar said.

Agriculture minister Kamal Guha has convened a meeting on Tuesday to review the situation and compute losses.

'Better quality seeds will be distributed to farmers soon after the flood waters recede,' said an official of the state agriculture department.

Onion prices have skyrocketed because of the crisis in Maharashtra.

'The onion crop in Nashik in Maharashtra as well as in Karnataka has been damaged because of the rain. The crisis will continue for about a month, until new stock arrives,' said Kailash Gupta of Hindustan Onion Supply Company at Posta.

With only 30 lorries bringing onions to the city's wholesale markets ' usually there are 80 ' prices have zoomed to Rs 24 from Rs 14.

'Prices had gone up in the run up to Lakshmi Puja, but they stabilised soon after. Today, even partly rotten palak saag is selling at Rs 15 a kg.... It will be cheaper if I put my family on a non-vegetarian diet for the next month,' said Mitali Dasgupta, a housewife shopping at Gariahat market this morning.

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