Betel leaves can offer livelihood, proves Malappuram farmer
Pookottumpadam (Malappuram): “If we take care of betel leaves, it can offer a livelihood,” said Amarambalam native Sunny, who manages betel cultivation in his court yard. By planting 300 betel plants, Sunny proved that it can offer a new source of income.
Once betel was a major crop in Kerala. Some farmers even depended on it completely. Later, this became rare as income dropped and expense increased. Sunny brought the betel saplings from Edakkara. He would not let the vines grow much taller. Farmers have to be careful as any damage or disease can spread to all plants easily.
Sunny said that he harvests leaves once in 10 days. About 90 bundles of leaves can be collected in one month. One bundle fetches Rs 80 and small betel leaves fetches Rs 45. Normally betel plants are intercropped in coconut and areca nut plantations. Water permeable and fertile land are ideal for betel farming. Also plenty of sunlight is necessary.
Sunny follows only organic method. Fertilizers should be applied only twice a month. Cow dung powder, groundnut cake and neem cake are used as fertilizer. One betel plant has a life of about 5 years. Betel plants aged between 6 months to 2 years have large leaves and those aged above 3 years have smaller leaves.
All betel leaves are sold in the local market in Pookkottumpadam. Apart from betel farming, Sunny also cultivates banana and rears cows for a living. Sunny’s wife Jessy and daughter Jishna also help him in farming.