…number of growers increase

YK Poudel

Bhutan produced around 11,106 metric tonnes (MT) of areca nuts in 2022, 52 percent lower than the previous year as the number of fruit-bearing trees dwindled.

Bhutan exports areca nut to India during the peak season and imports equally if not more from India during the lean season.

Records with the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) show that production in 2022 dropped by 10,271MT.

The yield of areca nut per bearing tree was recorded at eight kilograms (kgs) per tree in 2022, 4kgs less than in 2021.

Major areca nut-producing dzongkhags—Sarpang harvested 4,853MT, less by 1,497MT than in 2021.  Samtse harvested 3,630MT which is 7,763MT less than 2021, and Dagana harvested 1,209.72MT.

The Integrated Agriculture and Livestock Census of Bhutan 2022 shows that in terms of yield per fruit-bearing tree, Samtse and Sarpang recorded 8kg and Samdrupjongkhar yielded 10kg.

The report says that the lower production at the national level in 2022 was due to decrease in the fruit-bearing number of trees to 1,415,779, a drop of 377,473 trees compared to 2021.

Samtse reported a decrease of 292,563 in the trees, more than three-fourths of the total reduction in the bearing trees. Dagana and Sarpang reported, respectively 26,188 and 95,853 drop in the fruit-bearing trees than 2021.

However, the number of growers increased by two last year from 11,355 households in 2021. It takes between four and six years for an areca nut plant to mature.

In major areca nut-producing places, human-wildlife conflict, particularly elephants, forced farmers to change their farming practices.

Moreover, for many growers in Sarpang and Samtse, the new developmental projects have left them uncertain about growing areca nuts.

Areca nut is one of the major fruits grown in the country. In 2020, there were 1,767 hectares of areca nuts, up from 1,747 hectares in the previous year.