Staff Correspondent

Sirsi: Arecanut, one of the major commercial crops of Karnataka, has been included in the negative list of commodities in the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will come into force in January 2010. The country’s arecanut growers are heaving a sigh of relief, said Uttar Kannada MP Ananthkumar Hegde in a press meet called on Tuesday at the Public Works Department bungalow.

Quoting letter no: MKT/45/9/2009-10 issued from the Under Secretary to Government of India, S.P. Katnouria, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, he said that the anxiety of areca growers was mitigated.

If a trade item is in the negative list, it would be excluded from FTA for the next five years and as such it cannot be imported free with tariff relief, Mr. Hegde said.

A panel of Parliamentarians from areca growing States, led by Mr. Hegde, met the Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and convinced him about the plight of areca growers who constitute 2 per cent of the country’s population.

He said that efforts would continue to set a stabilised price for arecanut in the future.

He added that there was a need to focus on the health aspect of arecanut.