Areca growers anxious on Centre's move

Areca growers anxious on Centre's move

Areca growers anxious on Centre's move

The price of the produce, sensitive to policy decisions, may head southwards, with this decision. Areca prices had nosedived in 2003 when states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra banned gutkha, of which areca is an ingredient.

The Union government has made it mandatory to print statutory warning, ‘chewing areca may be injurious to health,’ on areca pouches . The direction stems from the carcinogenic status of areca, determined by few international research agencies.

An expert working group set up by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reported that areca even without tobacco is carcinogenic. A research article published in ‘The Lancent Oncology,’ official journal of World Health Organisation in 2003 has also endorsed the view.

The decision assumes importance in view of  the Supreme Court verdict in Pyarali Tejani Vs Mahadev case in 1973, terming supari as a food product. However, a gazette notification issued in 1993 had made printing statutory warning on supari pouches mandatory.

Subsequent to imposition of gutkha ban in some states, the SC had directed the Union government ot chlak out guidelines to regulate gutkha production. Restrictions were also imposed on mixing artificial and chemical ingredients in preparation of packed supari, a commercial product of areca free from tobacco. Serious attempts to give effect to the 1993 notification were made after 2003. Identifying areca as a food product and its concommitant branding as a carcinogenic, though are facts, appear strange.

Malnad Areca Marketing Cooperative Society (MAMCOS), elected representatives of the region including former legislators Araga Jnanendra, B L Shankar, Dr G D Narayanappa and L T Thimmappa Hegde approached the High Court against the decision of the Central government. In the absence of representation from the Union government, a single bench of the High Court ruled in favour of MAMCOS.

The Union government, preferred an appeal to the full bench of the High Court in 2008 quoting the research conducted by international agencies. It has claimed that areca is carcinogenic and printing statutory warning is in the interest of consumers.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, L T Thimmappa Hegde said that the research conducted by international agencies on areca is inconclusive and no epidemiological study has been conducted before arriving at the conclusion.  A team of credible experts should be constituted to research on the health hazards of areca.

Mamcos has decided to fight the case in the court and is expecting assistance from State government. Areca growers have succeeded in protecting their interests by waging several legal battles against Union government in the past.

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