Mamata Banerjee on Monday asked chief secretary Malay De to take an initiative to secure required permission from the Centre to cultivate poppy in Bengal as the plant’s seed is a staple diet in a large part of Bengal.
The chief minister gave the instruction when a resident of Burdwan pointed out during an administrative review meeting here that he could not buy poppy seed in the past few weeks as the price reached more than Rs 1,000 a kg.
“You should find out a system… you should convince the Centre that poppy seed is a staple diet in Bengal. We should be allowed to produce poppy seeds for consumption,” Mamata told the chief secretary.
A sources in the secretariat said the state agriculture department had recently sought permission from the Centre. “We had told the Centre that we would produce poppy under its guidance and the state would take only seeds for consumption. But no permission was granted,” said the source.
As of now, only certain areas in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh cultivate poppy under the strict surveillance of the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Farmers sell their produce to the Centre, which then processes it at the government Opium and Alkaloid Factories at Neemuch in MP and Ghazipur in UP.
The extracts are then given to pharmaceutical companies to produce medicines, including cough-syrup and pain-killers.
“The entire stock of poppy seeds, required for food consumption in the country, is imported. So, the price of the item fluctuates frequently and the domestic market has hardly any control over it,” said an official.
An official at Nabanna said: “The Centre apparently was not ready to take any chance to go out of its existing set-up to ensure that narcotic raw materials extracted from poppy don’t create trouble after more areas are brought under farming.”