Government promotes potato in rice-short Bangladesh

April 17th, 2008 - 5:36 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, April 17(IANS) Short of rice, thanks to a devastating cyclone, and faced with a potato glut this year, Bangladesh is assiduously promoting the latter, as a tastier, nutritive food supplement. There is a subtle attempt at arousing nationalist feeling with people being told that rice is in short supply, expensive and is having to be imported.

Led by the Army Chief Gen. Moin U. Ahmed, the initiative, with publicity and fanfare at five-star hotels, indeed, takes note of the age-old food habits of the people for whom rice is the staple diet.

So, Ahmed’s charity begins at home with plans for free food rations for the armed forces being altered with potato supplementing rice, but partially.

Taking the cue from him, a hotel that belongs to a major international luxury chain, Wednesday launched a weeklong all-potato food fest, making it spicy and attractive.

The feast showcases various local and international potato-based delicacies ranging from soup, pie, pasta, samosas, ice cream and salads that are very easy to prepare and the ingredients are available locally.

There are competitions, prizes and an attractive weekend package for the winners to stay and dine at the hotel.

Ahmed, who last month first spoke about the need for Bangladeshis to go-potato, even if partially and temporarily, opened the fiesta.

But he made it clear that there was no compulsion.

“Potato cannot be an alternative, but a supplementary item. We all should change our food habits and increase our daily potato consumption,” he said, speaking as a special guest at the inaugural ceremony at Radisson Water Garden Hotel here.

Ahmed also wears another hat as the chairman of Sena Hotels Development Ltd, the commercial arm of the army that manages hotels.

He opened the festival jointly with Food and Agriculture Adviser C.S. Karim, the Daily Star said.

Having potato with rice would not only help lower the demand for rice and retrain its prices, but also meet the nutritional needs of a person, he said.

“To control rising prices and utilise the bumper potato harvest of 800,000 tonnes this year, we have to do it together.”

“We have to consume 580,000 tonnes of potato domestically this year, otherwise a huge quantity of it will be spoilt due to the lack of adequate storage facilities,” he warned.

A potato farmer might not be interested to grow the crop again next year if heavy losses are incurred this year, observed the army chief.

An army personnel’s daily potato intake presently stands at 113 grams, he said adding that the daily potato allocation for each army member would be increased in the next couple of months.

Karim said people needed to be motivated to consume more potatoes and its increased consumption would ensure sustainable food security in the country, while enabling the farmers to get fair price for their produce.

More than 140 potato recipes will be on display.

“In the backdrop of a decline in the production of rice, bumper potato growth this year is good news,” Karim said, adding, “Nutritional requirements may be met with an increased potato intake alongside rice.”

The bottom line is to tell the Bangladeshis of the nutritional values of potato.

“Not only are potatoes great in taste, they are one of the most nutritious foods one can eat.

“One might be surprised to know that a medium sized potato has fewer calories than a grapefruit.

“Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, with highest protein content in the family of root and tuber crops and also very rich in Vitamin C,” Karim said.

Andre Alex Gomez, general manager of Radisson Water Garden Hotel, placed the issue in the context of global poverty and hunger.

The initiative, he said, was aimed at popularising potato as an alternative source of staple, which could help fight threats of hunger and poverty globally, The Independent newspaper said.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |