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MANGALORE: A serious concern was expressed over the uncontrolled expansion of the area under areca nut cultivation in the two-day conference on the â€œfuture of arecanutâ€ here on Saturday.
Echoing the sentiments of a majority of people involved in areca nut trade was D. Chandrashekar Chowta, a progressive farmer from Manjeshwar, Kerala, who sought measures to restrict its cultivation to the areas which were traditionally known for it.
Arecanut Research and Development Foundation, Mangalore, is hosting the conference which will conclude on Sunday.If the spread of areca nut cultivation to such areas was not prevented, growers in traditional areas would soon face a threat to their livelihood, Mr. Chowta said. He said that research and development activities in areca nut sector should be conducive to increase productivity in traditional areas and focus on promoting the cultivation in traditional areas.
The growers of areca nut in non-traditional areas were over exploiting ground water which should be discouraged, he said. Referring to white areca nut, Mr. Chowta said that the annual turnover of white areca nut in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasaragod (Kerala) districts stood at Rs. 1,000 crore. Areca nut was the prime contributor to the economy of these districts. Spread of areca nut cultivation to non-traditional areas would shake their economy, he said. Areca nut cultivation was being expanded to Tamil Nadu. Farmers from Tamil Nadu were asking for areca seedlings from the three districts in large quantity. The Kerala Government was planning to enact a legislation to ban conversion of paddy fields into areca nut plantations, he said.
Ganapathi M. Hegde, areca nut grower and agriculture engineer from Sirsi, said that farmers should realise that import of areca nut could not be stopped under the global free trade regime. Areca nut growers were getting good price for the produce now. Exorbitant price for domestic produce would result in higher imports and smuggling of areca nut from abroad, he said. V.V. Bhat, Principal Secretary (Finance and Planning), Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, in his keynote address said that universities and other educational institutes could have a network to take up research and development and find out value added products that could be manufactured from areca nut.
Referring to labour shortage faced by areca nut growers, he said that farmers could form self help groups (SHGs) to combat this situation.
D. Veerendra Heggade, president of the foundation, said that the research and development should focus on producing value added products for mass consumption.
V.S. Acharya, Minister for Home, inaugurated the conference. D.V. Sadananda Gowda, MP, spoke. S.R. Rangamurthy, president, Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative Ltd welcomed.
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