Undeterred by the ban on gutka and the fears that it would eventually lead to fall in areca prices has clearly not stopped farmers in Shimoga district from planting areca saplings. This is because they believe that the returns would still be more attractive compared to paddy, sugarcane and maize, the other important crops in the region.

After gutka was banned, Yogeshwarappa K.S. from Kommanal village has planted arecanut saplings in his 1.5 acres of land. He does not think that the ban on gutka will immediately hit the price of arecanut.

Mr. Yogeshwarappa’s family already owns six acres of arecanut plantation. They used to grow food crops in the 1.5 acres of land. “As profit from cultivation of arecanut was much more compared to maize and paddy, we decided to plant it in the remaining 1.5 acres of land also,” he said.

Says Rohith Kumar A.O., a farmer from Antaragange village near Bhadravathi, “After deducting the expense towards inputs and labour, the arecanut grower will get profit of Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 80,000 per acre. The profit from cultivating paddy in an acre of land in contrast will not be more than Rs. 20,000,” he said.

The problem of shortage of labour was another reason why farmers in Malnad have opted for arecanut.

Mr. Rohith says that the work of providing fertilizer, de-weeding and harvesting that require labour should be undertaken at a proper time for paddy, maize and sugarcane. Those who cultivate arecanut can postpone this work for 15 to 20 days if workers are not available, he said. The last decade saw a sudden surge in the prices of areca owing largely to the impact of gutka. The price per acre of arecanut that was around Rs. 1,800 per quintal in 1988 surged to Rs. 20,000 a quintal in 1996.

Though there was a small decline in the price for the next few years, it again crossed the Rs. 20,000 mark in the year 2000.