Areca nut affected with fruit rot disease | Photo: Mathrubhumi
When the new harvest season of area nut started, the price has skyrocketed but production remains low. About 5000 kilograms of areca nut was brought to the market last year whereas it dropped to mere 3000 kilograms this time, said a vendor at Pazhanji market in Thrissur.
The price of areca nut was Rs 500-525 per kilogram in September. This was only Rs 200-250 before two years. Those who have stocked the nuts sold it when the price started soaring. However, the rainfall and plant diseases affected production and harvest.
Earlier, upto 800-1000 kilograms of areca nut was harvested from one acre of field and this declined to 400-500 kilograms now. Merchants in different markets said that the arrival of areca nut has dropped immensely.
The untimely downpour turned out to be a heavy blow for areca nut farmers as the ripe nuts kept for drying were drenched in heavy rain. The ripe areca nuts harvested a month ago were spread on rooftop and courtyard for sun drying. But the rainfall soaked them and the nuts sprouted overnight.
The ripe nuts were tied in sacks as the farmers were waiting for the rains to recede. But the weather was unpredictable and the areca nut started perishing. With this, the farmers started spreading them in the open space.
Only some of them had roofs over the spaces to protect the nuts from rains. Others who did not have any rain guards faced severe loss. Many families in the hill ranges were depending on areca nut farming. Even after the price of areca nut skyrocketed, they did not get any benefit from this.
Also plant diseases like fruit rot (Mahali) spread due to the untimely rain. With this, production dropped to half compared to previous years. The farmers were repaying their loans with the amount earned from areca nut sales. Following the rain havoc, they are going through a crisis.