A holiday vocation for areca nut farmers

KASARAGOD JUNE 26. Aadaru Hodaru Hathibala Ore Ajikku Pattesire goes a Kannada proverb, meaning `I shall gift a silk sari to my grandma if cotton ripes.'

But due to the fall in prices of agricultural produces across the board, the proverb remains an unkempt promise. And, the devastation of crops by the heavy downpour had only increased the miseries of the ordinary farming community in the district.

However, there is a good vocation the farmers can engage themselves during the monsoon season, if one goes by the suggestions of Venketesh Rao, a veteran farmer from Neeleswaram near here.

Mr. Rao says value-added and eco-friendly products could be made using areca nut palm leaves, most of which are wasted.

He says ice cream spoons, `vishari' (hand-made fan), plates, cups, packing materials and `pala thoppi' (cap) can be made using areca sheath. This would help the poor farmers of north Kerala and South Canara in the neighbouring Karnataka State, who largely depend on areca nut cultivation, earn additional income.

Mr. Rao still approaches individuals and organisations to push his proposal through and popularise the possibility of establishing household units making products from areca leaves. He has also made efforts to motivate the Government authorities as well as other agencies and institutions engaged in agriculture-related field to take up the job.

"Nobody seems to be really serious in adapting my theory and evolve a method to implement the scheme," Mr.Rao says. It is estimated that there are about 800 areca nut palms in an acre of areca plantation with each having 12 leaf sheaths per year for disposal. Apportioning half the quantity of the total leaves available for other purposes, as many as 4,800 will be at the disposal of the farmer. Even at the rate of 50 paise per sheath, a farmer can fetch Rs.2,400.

And the product converted into a value-added good without much effort could be sold at Rs. 5 making a profit of at least Rs. 3 per piece. The price can be changed according to the quality of the product, he says.

These products can find good market if painted with pictures of Gods, prominent social, cultural, religious and political figures. They could substitute some of the plastic products at the instance of a possible ban on plastic, he says.

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