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Buddha admits sunflower blunder

Calcutta, June 7: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today admitted that the government should not have embarked on the sunflower cultivation experiment without preparation.

“We have procured the seeds from a particular company for the first time. We did not realise that it could be different from the varieties we used earlier. They (agriculture department) should have been prepared (for the experiment),” Bhattacharjee said.

He admitted that farmers had got only 50 per cent of the expected yield but said the situation was not as grim as in other states, where farmers were committing suicide.

Last Tuesday, farmers at Chandrakona of West Midnapore set ablaze standing sunflower crop on over 4.5 acres to protest the supply of poor quality seeds by the State Seed Corporation.

Sunflower cultivators in the area also threatened to launch a fast unto death, seeking compensation for the losses from the poor crop as well as improvement in quality of seeds.

The chief minister, however, ruled out the possibility of paying damages to the farmers.

“A team from Bangalore, with expertise in sunflower cultivation, is visiting the state to analyse the output, which has shown mixed results. The experts are analysing the soil, weather and rainfall,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings.

The chairman of the national oil seed board is engaged in field work in the state, the chief minister said. “The state government is conducting an inquiry and more than half the officers of the agriculture department are on the field.”

However, Bhattacharjee also said that the crop was good in some areas, like in Dinajpur.

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