Local growers worried as Centre decides to import areca from Bhutan

They fear that this will bring down the prices in the local market

October 12, 2022 04:28 pm | Updated 04:28 pm IST - Hassan

File photo of an arecanut plantation in Mangaluru city.

File photo of an arecanut plantation in Mangaluru city. | Photo Credit: RAVIPRASAD KAMILA

Areca growers of Malnad region are up in arms over the recent Central government decision to import green arecanuts from Bhutan. The unconditional consent to import 17,000 metric tons of arecanuts will bring down the price in the local market, they fear.

Protests planned

Growers, who are already facing difficulties due to yellow-leaf disease and leaf spot disease, that brought down the yield significantly in many parts of the region, are planning protests against the move. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has called for a protest march in Shivamogga on October 14 on this issue.

Karnataka stands first among areca growers in the country. In recent years, the areca growing area has spread to new places. “At present, areca is grown in 23 districts of the state. Among them, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and Hassan top the list,” said Ramesh Hegde, president of Areca Growers’ Association in Shivamogga district.

The decision to import arecanut without minimum import price would benefit a few merchants but leave the growers to suffer, they feel. “This is the time when arrivals to the market go up. There is no need of importing areca to fulfil the local demand. There is sufficient stock in the godowns as well,” he said.

Mr. Hegde alleged that during the BJP government, areca growers had suffered humiliation on many occasions. “In the past, the government’s representatives termed areca carcinogenic and another representative proposed to ban it. Time and again, the Centre has hit areca growers. We will strongly oppose this move,” he said.

At present, areca is grown in 23 districts of Karnataka. Among them, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and Hassan top the list. file photo

At present, areca is grown in 23 districts of Karnataka. Among them, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and Hassan top the list. file photo | Photo Credit: RAVIPRASAD KAMILA

Protest on October 14

Local growers are worried that with the entry of areca from Bhutan, the price will go down in the local market. At present, the Rashi variety is sold at ₹ 49,000 per quintal. “The price will gradually come down once the arrival from Bhutan starts. This is enough for the merchants to bring down the price in local markets,” said H.R. Basavarajappa, president of KRRS.

He is leading the protest to be held on October 14 in Shivamogga. Areca merchants’ association, Sahyadri Adike Sahakara Sangha and a couple of other growers’ associations have extended their support to the protest.

Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah recently issued a statement criticising the Centre’s move. “The Centre’s decision exhibits its arrogance. They have taken the decision at a time when areca growers have been demanding a total ban on the import of areca,” he said.

This move might allow large quantity imports from other countries in the near future, causing immense loss to native growers, he said. However, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, who also heads the State Areca Task Force, has said that import would not impact the local market.

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