Bhanpura: Betel cultivators heave over heap of rotten crop

Bhanpura: Coronavirus and lockdown have chewed up and spit out their hopes.. at least for this season. The menace of the virus and the subsequent regimes of staying indoors have come as a double jolt for more than 550 betel vine cultivators in Bhanpura village and its adjoining village in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh who have been struggling to recover from the losses.

With paan shops closed and public functions banned, all primary sources of revenue have collapsed and cultivators are in a dilemma. They are facing a shortage of labours, transport facilities and most importantly they are bleeding losses to the tune of several lakh of rupees.

One of cultivators, Panna Lal Maana, whose family owns a five-acre farm, is at his wits’ end as to how to eke out a living, as demand for betel leaf (tambul patta) has plummeted.

The heart-shaped green colour leaves are much in demand for consumption as ‘paan’ as the marriage season begins in March-April. Betel, also known as tumbul or paan, is quite popular in north India for chewing. It is believed that the leaf is good for digestion, prevents carcinogenesis in oral cavity and helps in overcoming constipation.

Bhanpura: Betel cultivators heave over heap of rotten crop

"Under normal circumstances, we get double our investment as we reap a profit annually during the marriage season. We get bulk orders from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other northern states in the country as tambul paan here are famous among the north Indians. We even export betel leaves to Pakistan and Bangladesh, Maana said.

But, this year the growers are staring at an uncertain future. Having invested on an average Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per acre to grow betel leaf, with no promise of returns.

The cash crop is grown in an area of several acres in Mandsaur, Neemuch, Ratlam, Gwalior, Chhattarpur, Sagar, tikamgarh and Narsingarh. We cultivate Bangla and Desi paan here which is high in demand in north India, Maana added.

Farmers here who sought compensation from the government like other farmers. The growers said the crop needs a lot of care right from planting till harvesting.

“It grows very fast and needs manure, fertilizer and watering regularly,” another farmer Rajendra Maana said pointing out that now due to heavy losses incurred by them, they do not know how to cope up with the situation amid fears that the pandemic would continue to grip for a long time.

Rajendra who grows betel leaf in a two-acre plot has seen his produce rot in front of his eyes. “We have neither workers nor any vehicle to transport. There is no demand at all to procure the crop from us this year,” he bemoaned.

Alone in Bhanpura village, there are more than 550 families which are solely dependent on betel vine and now their future is in a fix.

More than 550 farmers, small and marginal and an estimated 5000 workers depend on it. They are in severe distress and, "The government should come forward to pay compensation to the farmers and farm labours in lieu of losses suffered during the current season," a farmer said.

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