Two months before the areca nut harvesting season, orchards in Gelephu are all empty. Good price this year took it all.

The price of areca nut (doma) has almost doubled this year compared with the price farmers fetched last year. Initially, the price was Nu 800 a sack (60kg) but gradually increased. It hiked to as high as Nu 2,600.

Last year, the highest price areca nut farmers fetched was Nu 1,450 a sack. Some farmers sold it at Nu 500 a sack.

LB Ghalley produces about 80 sacks of areca nut every year. He sells them to an Indian contractor. He said that Indian contractors visit orchards before the flowering season.

“Although orchard booking is done prior to fruiting, price becomes final only after it’s packed,” LB Ghalley said.

LB Ghalley waited for the price to improve before he plucked the nuts. He got lucky.

Another major areca nut grower in Gelephu is Bhim Bahadur. He sells more than 182 sacks of nut annually from his 2-acre orchard. He also hires about 10 other orchards and sells the nuts to Indian contractor. In total, he sold 653 sacks of nuts. This year, he sold the nuts at three different prices.

While 235 sacks fetched Nu 3,500 a sack, 203 sacks fetched him Nu 3,400 each. He sold the remaining 215 sacks at Nu 3,000 a sack. “It was a good year this year for areca nut growers, the yield was good and it fetched better price,” he said. “The price however keeps fluctuating.”

Areca nut farmers in Sarpang rarely keep the nut until its ripe so that it can be buried to ultimately sell it as doma. All of the produce today is sold before harvest season.

One of them is Gombu Dorji. He said the price of areca nut has increased this year because demand for products such as varieties of supari, paan masala and gudka has increased in India. This happened because there was a major demand for gudka from Bangladesh.

Areca nuts from Bhutan are transported to Bjini camp in Assam. After chopping them into pieces they are then sent to factories in New Delhi. However, some of it comes back to Bhutan as unpeeled doma.

“The price is so unpredictable that just five days before the price dropped to Nu 4,000 a sack,” he said. This year he collected 12 truckloads from Gelephu.

Areca nut is a major source of income for farmers in the southern dzongkhags of Samtse, Sarpang and Samdrupjongkhar.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang