Shimoga: The Union government’s decision to increase the minimum import price for arecanut from Rs. 75 to Rs. 110 a kg has been welcomed in Malnad and coastal Karnataka.
Growers here were worried at the sudden increase in the import of arecanut from Bangladesh. The total value of the arecanut imported from Bangladesh surged from Rs. 18 crore in 2009–10 to Rs. 321 crore by the end of the third quarter of 2012–2013.
Fearing that large-scale imports might trigger a slump in the price of arecanut in the local market, a delegation from the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) met Director-General of Foreign Trade Anup Pujari in February and requested him to increase the minimum import price for arecanut.
President of Campco Kankodi Padmanabha told The Hindu that “areca growers are elated that the Union government has acted swiftly on their demands. The smuggling of arecanut from Nepal and Bangladesh is also a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Along with resulting in loss of revenue for the government in the form of import duty, the price of arecanut grown locally had come down owing to this illegal trade.”
T.N. Prakash Kammaradi, agricultural economist, also voiced a similar opinion. Chewing of inferior quality arecanut that comes into the Indian market from neighbouring countries was injurious to health. In the interests of the public, the import of inferior arecanut should be banned, he said.
According to research conducted by agricultural experts in 2010, the minimum cost incurred by growers to produce a kg of chali (white) arecanut was Rs. 114 and kempu (red) variety of arecanut Rs. 148. The minimum production cost should be assessed periodically and the minimum import price should be fixed above this cost to protect the interests of local arecanut growers, he said.
‘Matter will be raised’
Ayanur Manjunath, MP, said that the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement between countries that are members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had come in the way of imposing additional import duty on arecanut. The matter would be raised in Parliament and the Union government would be urged to take appropriate action in this regard, he said.
B.A. Ramesh Hegde, president of the Shimoga District Areca Growers’ Association and an arecanut grower, said that import of low-priced arecanut, which was of inferior quality, was the reason for the slump in the price of locally grown arecanut. Owing to the government’s decision now, the price of locally grown arecanut would surely go up, he said.
The recommendations of the Gorakh Singh Committee to the Union government to extend financial assistance to arecanut growers who had incurred losses owing to pest and fungal infection should be implemented at the earliest, he added.