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    Tajikistan’s cotton harvest may have fallen well short of its target in 2008, but in at least one district in the Central Asian nation, potatoes are doing very well. Yet officials at the Ministry of Agricultural in Dushanbe insist they will keep growing ’white gold’ at the expense of spuds and other edible crops -- even though the impoverished nation is currently reliant on food imports and international assistance.

    In some areas, the output of potatoes has quadrupled since 2001. The Tavildara District is one such area that reported a bumper potato crop this year. "The district has produced 9,557 tons of potatoes. That’s enough to meet the local population’s requirements for potatoes and deliver a considerable part of the harvest to Dushanbe’s markets,"Ahliddin Karimov, an official with the district administration, was quoted by the Asia-Plus news agency as saying.

    Farmers in the Tavildara District were averaging 22.7 tons of potatoes per hectare, with some farming cooperatives reporting yields as high 50 tons per hectare, he added.

    Cotton remains Tajikistan’s premier crop. But bad weather and other factors meant only 249,022 tons of raw cotton were harvested, just 63.2 percent of government’s target.