Unnecessary fears; We will help Areca farmers if prices crash – CM Siddaramaiah

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Bangalore; Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday assured the Legislative Council of government help to arecanut growers if prices crashed in the wake of the ban on gutka.

Replying to a debate initiated by Leader of the Opposition D.V. Sadananda Gowda on the perceived “uncertain future” of arecanut growers in the wake of the gutka ban, the Chief Minister said that the government would convene a meeting of the elected representatives concerned in the event of a price crash.

Allaying the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders’ fears that arecanut prices might crash, he said that the prices had increased after the gutka ban.

Mr. Siddaramaiah said that it was mostly inferior quality arecanut imported from Indonasia and Bangladesh that was being used for manufacturing gutka. “The areca produced in the State will not face any problem due to gutka ban as it is of high quality,” he said.

Mr. Sadananda Gowda said that the BJP was not against the gutka ban. However, it was concerned that the ban would affect the areca growers. It wanted the government to convene a meeting of the elected representatives and arecanut growers to discuss the possibility of waiving loans of arecanut farmers, he said.

Unnecessary fears

Earlier, addressing a press conference, Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader said that the government’s ban on gutka is unlikely to affect areca growers in the State.

He said that the government banned the sale and manufacture of gutka and pan masala under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations 2011. These regulations have been framed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.

He and Horticulture Minister Shamanur Shivshankarappa said that there was unnecessary panic among areca growers that the prices are falling.

“While the prices of most varieties of arecanut have remained stable, the rates of some varieties have even gone up. Even if the prices fall, as per the growers’ apprehensions, the Union and State governments have put in place several market intervention schemes. We have not banned the sale of tobacco and nicotine-free pan masala,” he said.

‘Ban inevitable’

The Ministers said that it was inevitable for the government to ban gutka as per the directive of the Supreme Court.

With 25 States and five union territories having banned gutka, Karnataka and several others had to follow suit and submit a compliance report to the court before June 23, they said.

Mr. Khader said that the department was gearing up to implement the ban in toto. “We have trained the existing 85 food safety and standards officers and 150 more are being appointed through the Karnataka Public Service Commission. We are working on building enforcement mechanisms,” he said

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