The area under arecanut cultivation across the State has increased from 1.61 lakh hectares in 2005-06 to 1.84 lakh hectares in 2008-09, according to Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Bangalore.
The statistics secured by the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (CAMPCO) Ltd. from the directorate reveals that the arecanut production too went up from 2.14 lakh tonnes in 2005-06 to 2.21 lakh tonnes in 2008-09.
However, some growers are sceptical about the figures. The statistics reveal that there has been a gradual increase in the area due to spreading of arecanut cultivation into non-traditional districts.
In Dakshina Kannada, the area went up from 27,338 hectares to 27,575 hectares (increased by 237 hectares) during the period. But the production, which increased from 48,770 tonnes in 2005-06 to 49,117 tonnes in 2007-08, came down to 33,141 tonnes in 2008-09 (down by 15,976 tonnes).
However, Manchi Srinivasa Achar, president, All India Areca Growers' Association, Puttur, told The Hindu that he had reservations over the directorate's statistics.
The area under arecanut cultivation is actually shrinking in Dakshina Kannada. It is not known whether the statistics have been collected from all gram panchayats, he said and added that it might be “crow count”. Some growers have converted their arecanut plantations to rubber. Yellow disease has reduced the area under cultivation in Sullia, Mr. Achar said.
Ramesh Kainthaje, a member of the committee which recently studied the production cost of arecanut for the State Government, said that the area under arecanut had been coming down, particularly so in Mangalore region, owing to high production cost and rising prices of agriculture inputs and labour scarcity. Moreover, gestation period for arecanut was seven years, he said.
According to the committee, the production cost of white arecanut is Rs. 114 a kg and it is Rs. 148 for the red variety. But the growers are not getting the market price for the produce. “Hence nobody is willing to expand the area of arecanut cultivation,” Mr. Kainthaje, who is also a grower, said.
Badanaje Shankar Bhat, trustee, Arecanut Research and Development Foundation, and a researcher on arecanut products, said that expansion in area would not affect market prices.
However, value addition for arecanut would allow growers to withstand the impact of expansion in the area under its cultivation, he said
The foundation is conducting a research on extracting tannin from arecanut and it is positive about the outcome, he said and added that there was demand for tannin in the wine and cosmetic industries.