OPERATION UP TO SAVE BENGAL POTATOES
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| Calcutta | Published 08.08.01, 12:00 AM
Calcutta, Aug. 8 : Calcutta, Aug. 8: It's Operation Uttar Pradesh to save the potato-growers of West Bengal. Concerned over the dipping fortunes of Bengal's potato-growers, the state government has decided to tinker with seeds of a variety of the plant grown in Uttar Pradesh. The only aspect that separates the variety of the Uttar Pradesh crop from that cultivated in Bengal is the percentage of water-content but that, say agriculture department officials, is enough to push Bengal's potato-growers towards penury and Uttar Pradesh farmers towards prosperity. The crop grown here - Hooghly and Burdwan yield most of the Bengal produce - has a water-content as high as 20 per cent, say officials. But the variety that is now grown in most of Uttar Pradesh contains less than one-fourth of the water found in the Bengal crop, they add. The high water-content of the potatoes grown in Bengal has two effects: one, it pushes the harvest faster towards decay; two, the 20 per cent water-content also makes it more difficult to use the crop for food-processing and agro-products. The Uttar Pradesh variety scores higher than the local produce on both counts. 'It is because of these twin factors that we've decided to go in for seeds from Uttar Pradesh,' state agriculture minister Kamal Guha told The Telegraph. 'But it will initially be done on an experimental basis to gauge the level of acceptance of the new variety among Bengal farmers,' he added. But it's the first factor that concerns them more, say officials. 'Studies have shown that it's easier to preserve the crop for a longer time if its water-content is lower,' said Guha. 'The high water-content, more than anything else, contributes to faster decay of the crop.' The state produces about 72 lakh tonnes of potato every year whereas the average annual requirement is only about 24 lakh tonnes.