Betel leaf leaves farmers in the red

Betel leaf leaves farmers in the red

The low price of betel leaf, used extensively in making mouth-watering varieties of paan, has left farmers in the district in teary-eyed.

This season, farmers have harvested a bumper crop after a good monsoon in the region.
However, the price crash is something they are still finding hard to come to terms with.

The price of a bundle of betel leaf (containing 100 leaves) fell as low to Rs five at the betel leaf market in Harihara in the district. Though there is a huge demand for the leaves during the Dasara-Deepavali festivals, this year the market recorded fewer auctions. The leaves are usually auctioned to the highest bidder.

The crash has devastated many farmers. Betel leaf is one of the major crops in the district and is cultivated in 12,000 hectares across Belludi, Bhanuvalli, Hanagawadi, and Shamshipura in Harihara taluk, Goppenahalli, Pandomatti, Pensamudra and Malahaala in Channagiri taluk, Sasavehalli, Hanumasagara, Somalapura, Balamuri, Gopagondanahalli and Cheelapura in Honnali. Byrapura, Ucchangidurga, Gadigudal and Nandibevuru in Harapanahalli taluk also cultivate the leaves. The leaves are also supplied to North India from the region.

Due to the price crash, however, many traders from North Karnataka have stayed away from the market. In addition to the farmers, the fall in prices have also adversely affected retail sellers.

Two varieties

The two popular varieties of betel leaves — Kariyele and Beligariyele — are widely cultivated in the district. Though there is a huge demand for both varieties, traders prefer Kariyele as it has as a longer shelf life than Beligariyele. The leaves are packed into big circular baskets made out of cane and banana leaves known as pendi. During the course of the packing and transport, leaves of the Beligariyele variety ripen and change colour due to heat trapped in the basket.

“Consequently, traders prefer Kariyele, which even after a week in the basket, remains fresh,” said trader Mansur.

“Gutka (which is a micture of lime, arecenut and tobacco) has also added to the woes of farmers as many people who previously consumed betel leaves have shifted to chewing gutka. As a result, there is a low demand for the leaves,” said Davangere Horticulture Department Assistant Director Umesh Shankar Mirji.

No amenities

The entire district of Davangere lies at the crossroad of North and South Karnataka and in particular Harihara, which is thronged by betel leaf traders from both regions.

However, the market here, although situated near NH 4, is located on a private land and lacks proper infrastructure.

“Though the district administration has promised to construct a new market, it is still searching for land,” traders said.

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