It is normally the season to start the second phase of areca nut harvest in Wayanad, but many farmers are yet to take up the first phase harvest as they fear that the income and expenditure are unlikely to match owing to low production.
A sustainable income from areca nut palms had helped the farming community create and manage a balanced family budget after the massive destruction of cash crops such as pepper and low price for rubber and coffee in the market. But, the low production coupled with a sharp decline in the price of tender areca nut has adversely affected the prospects of the community.
The spot price of tender areca nut in the regional market on Wednesday was ₹120 a kg as against ₹138 a kg a few days ago.
Farming sources said the volume of areca nut production had fallen sharply due to heavy rains. The incessant rain also triggered the spread of various diseases, especially nut rot disease (known locally as mahali) and yellow leaf disease. Production had dipped close to 80% in the year owing to heavy rainfall, the sources added.
“Usually, during the season we procure nearly 10 to 15 tonnes of tender areca nut a day, but we could not procure even three tonnes a day this year so far,” said A. Binoj, a trader at Meenangadi.
Tender areca nut was procured for the red areca nut processing centres functioning in Chamarajanagar, Sireah, Tumkur and Pavagada in Karnataka.
Sources said farmers in the district preferred to harvest areca nut in its tender stage as the quality of the ripened areca nut was poor owing to geographical reasons.
Data with the Agriculture Department revealed that 12,030 hectares of land was utilised for areca nut cultivation in the district. It said nearly 75% of the cultivated areas was affected by yellow leaf disease, a major threat to areca nut farmers.