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Betel nut farmers eye Tk400cr profit

Ibrahim Khalil Mamun . Cox’s Bazar
15 Jan 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 15 Jan 2022 09:17:19
Betel nut farmers eye Tk400cr profit
Traders busy selling betel nuts at a wholesale market in Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar – Ibrahim Khalil Mamun

Betel nut cultivation is increasing in Cox’s Bazar as farmers are witnessing the return of heyday for its lucrative price and demand in the markets both home and abroad.

Growers are eying a profit of Tk 400 crore from betel nut this season, says Ashish Kumar, an agriculture officer of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Cox’s Bazar office.

Insiders say the nut – supplementary to betel-leaf preparations – currently have a good demand at home and abroad, particularly in Middle-Eastern countries. The prices for this crop have tripled since last year.

More than one lakh people in Ukhiya, Teknaf, and Ramu upazilas of the district make a living by growing betel nuts. According to the farmers, betel leaf and betel-nut cultivation is more profitable than paddy cultivation these days.

According to DAE sources, over 15,000 hectares of land in Ukhiya, Teknaf, Ramu, Cox’s Bazar Sadar Eidgaon, Chakaria, Pekua, and Maheshkhali of the district have been brought under betel nut cultivation.

Of them, Teknaf’s Sabrang, Sadar Teknaf, Bahar Chhara Shamlapur, Ukhiya Jaliapalang union have had bumper yields of betel nuts this season.

DAE officials said betel nut yield has been better this season compared to other years due to favorable weather and no natural calamities. Farmers are harvesting 45 tonnes of betel nut in a hectare of land. Growers told The Business Post that 80 betel nuts, locally called “Pown,” are selling for Tk 220 to Tk 240 this season, compared to Tk 90 to Tk 110 for each pown last year.

The peak season for betel nut cultivation is between September and January. Last year, over 4.5 lakh tonnes of betel nut was cultivated on 13,000 hectares of land, they added.

During a recent visit to the area on Sunday, growers told The Business Post they have sold betel nut worth Tk 1.5 crore from seven local markets in Ukhiya, and Tk 3 crore in Teknaf based markets and 70 villages that day.

Abdul Kader, a marginal betel farmer in Sonarpara village, says he has become financially solvent by planting more than 458 betel nut trees adjacent to his homestead. He is harvesting 300 to 500 betel nuts from each of these trees, and expecting a profit of Tk 2 lakh at the end of this season.

“Even last year, we were selling each betel nut for Tk 1, now we are getting Tk 3 for them. If the prices remain the same, we will make a huge profit this year,” said Abdul Mannan, 60, a farmer of the same village.

Nazrul Islam and Shafiqul Islam, traders who came to the area from Rangpur and Dhaka to buy betel nuts said, along with them, 11 other traders bought enough betel nuts to fill 103 trucks, and transported it to different districts across the country, including Dhaka and Chattogram in the last seven days.

Hossain Ahmed, 55, a farmer of Teknaf’s Damdamia village, said he earned Tk 36,000 by selling 12,000 betel nuts. He however alleged that dishonest traders are trying to sell smuggled betel nuts from Myanmar, which can make the market unstable.

Ashish Kumar, an agriculture officer of the DAE, Cox’s Bazar office, said by selling betel nuts, betel growers will earn nearly Tk 800 crores this year.

He continued, “The farmers are happy with the increase in betel nut and betel leaf prices this year. Betel nut cultivation is more profitable than paddy cultivation. Farmers are opting for betel nut cultivation instead of paddy.

“The result is a day-by-day rise. The numbers of betel nut and betel farmers have multiplied.”