The recent spell of rainfall in south Bengal has brought relief to farmers in West Bengal's 11 drought-hit districts and is also improving crop prospects in the kharif season.

State Agriculture Minister Naren Dey told journalists at the Secretariat that extra rainfall over the last few days had reduced the shortfall to 31 per cent from 36 per cent . The 11 affected districts were concentrated around the State's southern cusp, but also panned out till Malda in north Bengal and included the State's breadbasket, Bardhhaman.

In Purulia, identified as the worst-affected district, the shortfall had been 54 per cent.

Mr. Dey said in south Bengal, paddy has now been sown over 70 per cent of the area normally covered as against 76 per cent all over the State. Altogether 12 lakh mini-kits were being sent for distribution among the farmers.

“To help people get started on cultivation of alternate crops, we are procuring improvised seeds from other States,” the minister said adding that these were being sent to Purulia and Bankura. Steps were being taken to cultivate foodgrains such as wheat and maize and oilseeds like mustard and groundnut.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has toured the affected areas and various steps have been taken to ameliorate the sufferings of the farmers in these areas with special emphasis being laid on employment generation.

A team of officials from the Union Agriculture Ministry has also made on-spot visits to survey the situation.