The decline in arecanut yield in the district owing to climatic changes and disease has triggered a sharp increase in its price. The price of saraku variety of arecanut was around Rs. 18,000 per quintal last September and has doubled to Rs. 36,000 per quintal today. Similarly, the price of bette, rashi idi and api varieties have also increased by around 70 per cent during the same period.

The Union government’s announcement of increasing the minimum import price of arecanut from Rs. 75 to Rs. 110 a kg in the second week of May triggered the northward climb in prices. There was a 20 to 30 per cent increase in prices in a span of 15 days. Arecanut growers had thought the State government’s May 31 ban on gutka would result in a slump in arecanut prices. However, the price of api and rashi idi varieties that was around Rs. 18,000 per quintal prior to the ban went up to Rs. 21,000 by the first week of August.

The arecanut yield had declined by around 30 per cent in the district last year owing to poor rainfall. Farmers sold last year’s produce by the end of June. The arecanut harvested this year will enter the market from November second week. With an acute mismatch between supply and actual demand in the past three months, prices have increased sharply.

D.B. Shankarappa, president of Shimoga Arecanut Growers’ Association, told The Hindu that the price of arecanut is expected to escalate further. Owing to heavy rain that lashed the district this year, arecanut trees have been infected with fruit rot disease (koleroga).

So, the arecanut production in the district is likely to drop. As the gap between demand and supply widens in the coming months, there will be a further increase in price, he said.

The news of price rise has not brought cheer to the farmers of Hosanagar, Sagar, Tirthahalli and Koppa taluks, who sell their produce in the Shimoga market.

They have suffered heavy losses due to koleroga. Naveen Kumar, an arecanut grower from Golikoppa village in Koppa taluk, said he was not expecting much benefit from the increase in prices. “More than 50 per cent of the produce in my five-acre plantation was damaged. Though the arecanut price has escalated, farmers in Malnad region where koleroga has caused extensive damage will not benefit much,” he said.

Only the farmers in Shimoga and Bhadravati taluks, where the loss due to koleroga was comparatively less, are expecting some benefit from the price rise.

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