Farmers seek insurance cover for betel leaf cultivation

Farmers seek insurance cover for betel leaf cultivation

Distressed betel leaf farmers in Maharashtra have demanded crop insurance cover, claiming its cultivation has almost stopped due to significant financial risk.

An official in the agriculture department on Wednesday admitted there was a decline in betel leaf cultivation in Jalna, Aurangabad and other areas, and said its farming does not fall in the category of insurance cover.

He also said that the betel leaf's dwindling demand in the market and high water requirement for growth were posing hurdles in its cultivation.

Till some years back, betel vines were prominently cultivated in Jalna, Aurangabad and Jalgaon districts.

Several farmers said that unlike for other crops such as wheat, paddy and corn, betel leaf growers do not get any compensation in case of a natural calamity.

"The area under betel leaf cultivation has come down significantly as local cultivators have stopped growing it due to non-availability of a crop insurance scheme. In case of a natural calamity, the grower stands to lose everything," farmer Tulshiram Payghan, from Bharat Budruk village in Jalna district, told PTI.

Betel leaf growers have suffered crop losses in the past due to natural calamities, including drought, excessive rainfall and hailstorm, the 64-year-old cultivator said.

Hence, farmers have been repeatedly demanding insurance cover for the crop losses.

"Farmers in Jalna, Jalgaon and Aurangabad have almost stopped growing betel leaf. If the government doesn't take concrete steps, this sector will end," Payghan said.

Another farmer from Jalna claimed betel leaf dispatches for sale in their area have come down from four trucks per week in 2005 to one mini-truckload now.

Demands made to the government to include betel leaf in the list of farm produce getting insurance cover has fallen on deaf ears so far, farmer Shankar Dabbe said.

He said the area of betel vine cultivation in his village has gone down from 150 hectares in 2004 to 25 to 30 hectares now.

"I never saw such a decline earlier during my 50 years of working in the sector," Payghan added.

When contacted, Jalna district agriculture officer S T Pathan said they have been seeing a decline in the cultivation of betel leaf in many parts of the region.

"Every crop is defined in some or the category which helps farmers to get insurance cover for it. But betel leaf is not classified in such a manner. Hence, its growers won't get any aid if their plantation is hit by a natural calamity," he said.

"Lack of availability of market and high quantity of water requirement for the plant to grow are also constraints in cultivating the betel leaf," he added.