Gutka ban will help revive areca prices, say experts

Gutka ban will help revive areca prices, say experts

Gutka ban will help revive areca prices, say experts

While arecanut growers in Karnataka are opposed to any kind of ban on sale of gutka, fearing an adverse impact on the price of the produce, health experts believe that the conception is contrary to truth.

“I have been growing arecanut for the past 40 years and I can tell you for sure that the prices have plummeted ever since the sale of gutka became popular,” Dr M G Bhat, president of Indian Dental Association (IDA), Karnataka, said.

“During 1998-1999, the price hovered at Rs 180 to Rs 200 per kg and by 2005, a few years after gutka use picked up, farmers got only around Rs 55 per kg,” Bhat said, attributing the slide in the prices to the rampant use of gutka.

Bhat added that the ban on gutka will help revive the price of arecanut, on account of its use in the traditional way (consuming betel leaf and arecanut together).

Areca content

Another argument in support of the ban is that gutka products use minimum arecanut and more of other carcinogenic materials.

“The percentage of arecanut in these products is very less. So, the apprehension that ban on gutka affects production and prices of arecanut is totally false,” said Dr Sridhar, Vice-President, Karnataka State Dental Council.

A study conducted by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, last year shows a decrease in the prices of arecanut in the State, despite the increase in production.

For example, the average price of arecanut (white chali and red boiled varieties) during 1995-96 ruled at Rs 8,790 per quintal, when the production was 1.14 lakh tonnes. The price came down to Rs 8,389 per quintal in 2004-05, when the production was 2.03 lakh tonnes.

‘Caution needed’

The Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Co-operative (Campco) has been asking the government to be cautious before adopting the ban, lest it affects the livelihood of farmers in 11 districts in the State where it is grown.

When asked about banning gutka sale, Konkodi Padmanabha, president of Campco, said he had no opinion on the issue.

“It is a matter before the courts and they are the ones to decide. I, however, support a ban on the import of low quality areca from countries like Indonesia that are mostly used in our gutka products,” he said.  

At the national conference of the IDA held in December 2012, around 1,000 doctors adopted a resolution seeking a ban on the sale and use of gutka in Karnataka.