trapped:It is estimated that at least 350 hectares was under betel vine till some years back but it has shrunk to less than 75 hectares now in Karur region.—File photo
Despite the produce costing the habitual consumer quite a fortune these days, betel-vine growers in Karur district are sore that they are not getting the right price. This at a time when the fields are devastated by the continuing drought like conditions, lack of rains, shortage of farm hands and rising input costs.
Betel vine is grown in gardens mostly along the banks of River Cauvery and also fields abutting Kattalai High Level Channel in the interiors of Kulithalai and Krishnarayapuram belt.
Areas such as Pugalur, Pungodai, Semangi, Muthanur, and Thalavapalayam along the banks of Cauvery and villages off Sithalavai, Mahadanapuram, Lalapet, Kumaramangalam see a lot of farmers take to betel vine cultivation traditionally.
Though individual consumption of betel vine has seen a steady decline over the years, marriages and festivals were keeping them afloat all these days. The leaves plucked from the gardens in Karur district would be packed off to destinations including Velayuthampalayam and Velur shandies besides Erode, Dindigul, Madurai, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts.
While betel vine cultivation flourished once, the adverse factors ranged against the growers forced a sharp decline in the area under betel vine in the past few years. It is estimated that at least 350 hectares was under betel vine till some years back but it has shrunk to less than 75 hectares now.
Naturally that has resulted in the price of the produce go up in the market
. ``A kowli of betel comprising 100 leaves fetches the farmers Rs.15 at the shandies and for some other varieties even less. But the produce changes hands continuously to be sold at the petty shops for 75 paise a leaf depending on the size. See how much we are loosing,’’ points out S. Chelladurai of Lalapet.
Till a couple of years back, the growers were getting a good price except in days of glut when the price would not meet even plucking costs.
``We have to contend with pest attacks, diseases, inclement weather, lack of water for irrigation, short of manpower and dwindling returns.
Many times I have felt like doing away with the crop but could not do so as I have little option left,’’ rues P. Kumarasamy Gounder of Velayuthampalayam who has been raising betel vine for more than three decades.
He admits t have reduced the area under the crop from three acres about six years ago to just half an acre now.
Both farmers concede that they could not look up to the governments for help as the market fluctuates menacingly. Reflecting the opinion of other betel vine growers they feel that something like establishing a proper regulated market for betel vine in Karur, Namakkal, and Tiruchi district could help farmers get a remunerative price.