KOCHI: A few years ago, more than 10,000 betel leaf farmers from Tirur were savouring success as tonnes of produce from their fertile land crossed borders to Pakistan every week and brought them fortune in return. But it tastes bitter now after diplomatic relations between the two countries turned sour and that country hiked its import duty on betel leaves from India by more than 140 per cent. The Pulwama attack has poured more cold waters on the farmers’ comeback hopes.
The farm of Bava Moopen, one of the major betel leaves growers in Malappuram all these years, used to supply the lion’s share of the five-tonne weekly export. It had once touched 20 tonnes but after things took a turn for the worse, Moopen said nearly 50 per cent of them have given up farming.
“We used to make an average weekly profit of `25,000 from one consignment earlier. But Pakistan has been acting with a vengeance in the past three-to-four years and now the export has completely stopped,” said Moopen, president of Tirur Betel Farmers Association. “Price of a 100-leaf bundle of leaves has slumped to `30 from `120,” he said.
Betel leaf farmers seek govt action
Tirur Betel Farmers Association president Bava Moopen said: “We met officers of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Trade in New Delhi and apprised them of our issues. Only government-level discussions can solve the issue.” He added the Pulwama attack has dampened the recovery chances.
Suraj Trading International Exports MD Praveen Eranhikkal said they used to export at least a tonne of leaves every week to Pakistan three years ago. “Now, we don’t have any order from Pakistan. Apart from the skirmishes between the two countries, the exorbitant import duty imposed by Pakistan on betel leaves from India has worsened things. We now export only a small quantity to Lebanon,” said Praveen.
betel leaf farmers from Tirur were sending leaves to Pakistan