Bengal to promote drought-proof rice

Written by Rohit Khanna | ROHIT KHANNA | Kolkata | Updated: Oct 29 2009, 05:31am hrs
Hit by drought-like conditions this year, West BengalIndias largest rice producing stateis planning to sow drought-resistant variety of rice in 2010.

The state agriculture department will soon place the matter with the Cabinet. Meanwhile, the state has been able to minimise the losses in rice production this year after good rainfall from the last week of August. The actual shortfall in rice production is now estimated to be around 5 lakh tonne from earlier projections of 15 lakh tonne.

The Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) has developed a drought-resistant variety of the paddy Sahabhagifor rain-fed slightly gradient areas with presence of little water. Even when there is a good monsoon, the drought-resistant variety will be beneficial for cultivation in districts like Purulia, said Naren De, state agriculture minister.

The drought-resistant variety has been developed by CRRIs Hazaribag unit in Jharkhand specially aimed for sowing in states like Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal .

According to CRRI, the new variety will be able to grow even with little presence of water and yield 3.5-4 tonne paddy per hectare. Already, high yielding varieties of rice are sown in almost 85% of the land in the state. West Bengal has been looking forward to a drought resistant paddy variety after it received 30-40% less rainfall till third week of August this year.

Rice production in high productivity districts like Nadia (production 2,705 kg per ha); medium productivity districts like 24 Parganas (N), Murshidabad, Bankura, Malda, Midnapore (West & East), Dinajpur (North & South) and Howrah (2,000-2,500 kg/ha) is likely to be affected because of low rains. The state government initially feared that Aman rice production would slide by around 10% by the end of the year. But rainfall started picking up after that and overall deficit in south west monsoon rainfall was to the tune of 14% during the June-September period.

While the states rice production was little more than 147 lakh tonne last year, it had set a target of more than 155 lakh tonne this year. We will have a shortfall to the tune of 5 lakh tonne this year even though rainfall picked up in the latter half of the year, said De.

Last year, the state brought almost 43 lakh hectares of land under rice cultivation and was looking at maintaining the target this year despite less rainfall. About 78% of total area under rice in the state is under high and medium productivity groups, accounting for nearly 84% of Bengal s total rice production. We could not reach the target this year and we could only cultivate 41.5 lakh hectares, De said.