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Free paddy seeds of poor quality: Farmers

Calcutta, Sept. 7: Hundreds of farmers have complained that paddy seeds supplied under a central scheme were of poor quality, prompting the agriculture department to order an inquiry.

The complaints in late August come at a time rice production in Bengal is likely to be hit because of irregular rain and lack of proper irrigation this kharif (monsoon) season.

Agriculture minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya said: “We have received complaints that seeds supplied under the Centre’s Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) scheme are of poor quality and production could be hit because of this. We have ordered a departmental inquiry to know the actual picture.”

Senior officials of the agriculture department said that under the BGREI, paddy seeds were supplied free to lakhs of farmers cultivating 1.12 lakh hectares across 18 districts in Bengal.

“Farmers have complained that the paddy saplings are flowering early. If the sapling flowers early and the plant is not mature enough for it, the grain is not formed. The problem will hamper production. A paddy sapling takes 85-90 days to flower. But in this case, the saplings are flowering within 30 days of planting,” an official said.

If production is affected in the 1.12 lakh hectares, the state will lose nearly 3 lakh tonnes of rice, he said. Under the scheme, 532 clusters, each measuring 250 acres, had been identified. Seeds could be distributed in 450 clusters as the remaining were left uncultivated.

The Telegraph had recently reported that the state could face a shortfall of 17 lakh tonnes of rice as about 6.9 lakh hectares remained uncultivated till August 22.

The officials today said the situation had “improved to some extent” as the state had taken initiatives to extend the sowing season till August 31. The sowing season begins in July.

The BGREI seeds were procured from the National Seed Corporation — a central agency — and distributed among the farmers by the state agriculture department, an official said.

According to officials, there could be several reasons for the poor quality of seeds. “We can’t rule out the possibility that the original seeds were replaced with those of poor quality while distributing. This apart, poor weather and improper storage could have adversely affected the seeds. Only a thorough inquiry can establish the actual reason,” another official said.

The complaints have been made by farmers in Hooghly and Nadia.

“We are yet to get reports from other districts. We have to wait for a few more days to know if farmers in other districts are facing the same problem,” the official added.

Officials also said that during the last winter season, poor quality wheat seeds were supplied to more than 50,000 farmers under a state government project. The seeds did not germinate.

These seeds had been sourced from a private company.