Centre's intervention fails to help areca growers

Centre's intervention fails to help areca growers

Minimum price of only imported variety hiked, not local varieties

The decision of the Union government to hike the minimum price of imported areca nut from Rs 35 a kg to Rs 75 was expected to help growers by increasing the prices in the market.

Areca nut prices have failed to recover with surging supply and depreciating demand. dh photo

But there are other overriding factors which have kept the prices low, the chief being supply exceeding demand.

While the rise in area under areca cultivation has increased the supply, the ban on sale of gutkha in sachets has reduced demand. Areca nut is the major ingredient in gutkha.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade had issued a notification on August 14, 2012, hiking the minimum price for import of areca nut.

The only silver lining, though, is that prices of traditional areca nut varieties are stable. 

The growers are demanding that the area under areca cultivation be restricted in the State. Failing which, they say, there is no chance of the prices going up in the near future. The trade in native varieties has been affected, with 14 states and union territories banning the sale of gutkha.

Ramesh, an areca grower from Teerthahalli, said earlier, that areca was grown in a few districts- Shimoga, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and in some parts of Chitradurga, Davangere and Hassan. Later, areca cultivation was taken up by growers in districts such as Haveri, Mandya and Mysore on thousands of hectares of land.

“We can’t grow areca on large tracts due to the presence of hilly areas. Only a handful of people own areca farms that are 25 acres or more in the district and most of them are small growers. While rules stipulate that areca should not be grown in command areas as it is a commercial crop, farmers continue to do so in various parts of the State.

The government should restrict cultivation of commercial crops in the State. Supply of adulterated areca is also affecting market prices. There is a need for research on alternative uses of areca, to help traditional areca growers. Besides, the government should take measures to create awareness on the use of areca in medicines and other purposes,” he said.

Jayadeva, an areca merchant, told Deccan Herald, “The prices of areca nut varieties in the Shimoga market range between Rs 13,000 per quintal and Rs 15,000. The price of ‘bette’ variety is Rs 14,000 and that of ‘rashi idi’ is Rs 13,600. These two varieties have demand in other states.”