In an agrarian economy like India, agriculture occupies a key place in the program of economic development. For rural Indians, agriculture has become a way of life. This sector is contributing nearly 60 percent of the National income and plays a significant role in the over-all development of the country. When traditional form of agriculture turn out to be commercial during the British period, farmers attitude towards agriculture was changed. As a consequence, in the agriculture sector, commercial crops occupied a prominent place. Among various crops given commercial significance, the ARECANUT is predominant one.
Areca nut (Areca Catechu Linn) is an important crop in India and is popularly known as “BETTLENUT” or “SUPARI”. It enjoys and commands a long history of consumption as a masticator item in India, West Asia and some of the far Eastern Countries. It is a commodity with conventional, commercial and economic importance. While the conventionality is directed by societal values in the Asian context, the commerciality is ensured by the fact that it contributes about 31,000 crores of rupees to the gross National product. Besides this, its economic importance is witnessed by more than 8.25 million of people who make their livelihood through areca industry and allied business. On the other hand, it is reflected in all the religious, social and cultural life of Indians. The cultivation of areca nut can be traced from the vedic period. Areca kernel is used mainly for chewing purpose in “Tambula”, “Beeda”, “Pan masala”,“sweet supari” and “Ghutka”.
Areca nut being a tropical palm, its distribution is mainly confined to Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Srilanka and some of the Pacific Islands. Areca nut is not a native of India; it is an introduced plant in India. Philippines is generally supposed to be the native of areca nut mainly because of the presence of larger number of varieties. The trade relation of those days had spread it to all regions. Till the 1960’s India used to import areca nut from Malaysia, Singapur and Srilanka. As a result of the partition in 1947, India lost almost 50 percent of the total area under areca nut to East Pakistan. (Bangladesh).
The yield rate of areca nut is highest in Karnataka and Tripura followed by Maharashtra Assam and others. Areca nut is being used mainly for chewing in tender, ripe or processed forms. It can be used for other commercial purposes, provided necessary research is undertaken. Hence, there is a scope for research and export efforts. Presently the major portion of the areca nut production is consumed domestically and the rest is exported to countries like Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Oman, Netherland, Nepal, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, United Kingdom and United States of America. It is very interesting to note that areca has opened its accounts in every corner of major countries of the world.
Though the areca nut chewing habit is prevalent throughout Asia, it is only in India that the research and development activities on various aspects of this areca palm especially in relation to cultivation, is being carried out. Traditionally cultivation of areca palm is practiced along the narrow coastal belts. Later extended to Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and in the East Coast of Tamil nadu, Andrapradesh and Orissa, Tripura, West Bengal and Assam with the largest concentration in South West India. It is estimated more than 8.25 million people in India are engaged in the production processing and marketing of areca nut. But, flower drops and root grubs are the major diseases, non availability of labor and inadequate availability of inputs are the major problems encountered by the farmers of India with reference to production. Inadequate facilities for marketing, poor marketing intelligence, price fluctuation and exploitation from the intermediaries are the major problems faced by the farmers at the National level with reference to marketing aspect. The states of Kerala, Karnataka and Assam where areca nut is grown extensively, together account for about 95 percent of the total areca production in India. To a smaller extent it is also grown in Meghalaya, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, and Mizoram. A production trend indicates that the areca production is one of the lines in Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya and West Bengal. Slow growth is witnessed in Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. It is obvious to note that in Mizoram and Tamil Nadu year by year areca production is declining. Karnataka occupies a pride place both in respect of area and production. Once upon a time, Kerala was the largest producer of areca nut in the country, but now it has been shifted to the third position, with Karnataka occupying the first place, followed by Assam. The growth rate in areca production and yield is very impressive.
In Assam, about 90 percent of areca nut is locally consumed in the form of semi-ripen and fermented status. The growers themselves sell the produce in the primary markets to the private traders who in turn convert it into whole or split dry areca nut. The same pattern of marketing is followed in Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
The assembling and distribution is done in West Bengal through a large number of periodical markets, where the growers themselves take the produce and sell it to the consumers directly. In Maharashtra, areca nut is processed in the form of ripe nut. The outer skin of the fruit is stripped and dried partially. Afterwards, the produce is sold to the middlemen and commission agents who undertake further sorting.
In Goa, generally the crops are harvested in ripen form : Over 80 percent of the produce is converted into dried whole fruit and remaining is consumed as fresh nut or preserved in water for use during off season. In Karnataka, about 95 percent of the harvested crop is converted into different types of processed boiled, dried, split and powdered areca nut. A major portion of assembling is done by co-operative societies situated in important production regions. In States like Tamil nadu and Andhra Pradesh, nearly 90 percent of the harvested produce is converted into boiled type variety and marketed in important production centers.
In case of ripe nuts, sales are effected by open negotiations between sellers and buyers and the produce is delivered on the spot for ready cash. In some regions crop contractors give advance before the harvest, when it is grown contractors take it granted. Moreover, there is no inter-state trade in ripe nuts, since it is consumed locally. In the case of processed nuts, the price is settled based on weight, size and grade.
“The co-operative movement is an exercise in fellowship which seeks to end the exploitation of man by man”. This movement teaches people to raise their own interest, life status and to think in terms of general welfare. Co-operation was introduced in India mainly as a defensive organism for dealing with the problems of rural indebtedness. Co-operative societies came into existence after passing of the Co-Operative Credit Societies Act in 1904. So far as the development of Co-operative movement in the Uttara Kannada District is concerned, the fertile seed of co-operation was born in 1923, by establishing Totgars' Co-operative Sale Society in Sirsi. Since the real Co-operation movement in India started only after the Rural Credit Survey Committee submitted its report in 1954. An impressive co-operative movement was initiated here during 1963, under the courageous leadership of Shri Shripad R HegdeKadve – Sirsi, who really devoted his life for the co-operative movement in the District. So that, said movement could spread all over the District during 1970’s as a result, in all most all villages of areca areas of Malnadu regions, primary co-operative societies emerge for the service of the farmers. However, in the coastal belt this development is not so impressive. But it has got Taluka agricultural produce co-operative marketing societies (TAPCMS) at Taluka level. These co-operative societies are providing facilities of credit linked marketing financial assistance and helping to spread market information. These societies are acting as affiliated societies and playing their unique role in primary marketing and influencing secondary marketing.
After 1980, District has started witnessing the fruits of the co-operative movement in many respects. Now, on an average 55 to 66 percent of areca nuts are sold through co-operative societies in the district. ‘it is a matter of pride that the Totgars’ Co-operative Sale Society was established in 1923. Had earned position in the heart of each and every gardener of the Sirsi, Siddapur and YellapurTaluk. Farmers of this area legitimately feel and say that this co-operative institution is breath and pulse of farmers. The society too has identified itself with the community of this region and it has become a part and parcel of the areca growers. This institution stands pioneer in many service. This was the institution to introduce “Pooling and grading” of the growers produce and marketing at the terminal market at Bombay. This too helped the growers to get better prices for their areca nut. This institution is not merely a marketing institution, but provides all other services to the members by running medical shop, petrol bunk and agricultural requirements. The twin objectives of marketing institution i.e. linking credit with marketing and fetching better prices by pooling the produce has been galvanized and helped the growers by giving them harvesting and other term loans and created a feeling of security among the gardeners. It has been trying its level best to protect farmers from the clutches of private traders and money lenders.