KARWAR: Areca trade has come to a grinding halt in the state pushing the growers into a deep crisis. According to sources, only 20 per cent of the areca produced in the state had been sold so far. The remaining quantity is either with the growers or cooperative societies which purchase areca from growers to recover loans advanced to them.
Shantaram Hegde, president of Totagars’ Sales Society of Sirsi, said that cooperative societies are helpless and facing a severe setback.
The annual areca production in Karnataka is estimated at 6,00,000 metric tonnes.
Areca is grown in nearly 5,72,000 acres and about 14 per cent of total areca production is in Uttara Kannada district, covering an area of nearly 30,000 acres.
It was in early 2000 that ghutka became popular in the country. Areca nut is the main ingredient of ghutka, besides tobacco.
In fact, ghutka industry has been providing 80 per cent of market for areca nut.
With huge demand for areca from ghutka manufacturers, the areca prices shot up.
Lured by this development, a large number of farmers began to grow more areca even converting their paddy fields into areca farms.
Now, banning the packing of ghutka in plastic sachets by the Ministry of Environment and Forests following directions from the SC, has paralysed the areca market.
Areca growers are preparing to fight to save themselves from further crisis. It is in this context that Gangadharendra Saraswati Swamiji of Sonda Swarnavalli Mutt called a meeting of areca growers at Sirsi on March 20. Before the ban, the red variety sold at around `15,000 per quintal and white at `10,000 to `11,000. The demand fell to 40 per cent soon after the ban in February.
They also urged the government to file a review petition in the SC against the ghutka ban.