Unlike previous years, betel nuts are fetching attractive prices in Lhamoizingkha this season.
Today, a kilogram of the areca palm fruit is fetching about Nu 30 a kilogram in Kulkuley, an Indian town across the border.
Tshering Dorji, a betel nut supplier said that the price last year was Nu 18-20.
“Initially the price was Nu 35. It has dropped but it is still good,” he said, adding he has supplied 2,000kgs of areca nut in Kulkuley.
Prices vary depending on suppliers and farmers who cultivate betel nut, Lhamoizingkha residents said.
However, most farmers sell areca nut before harvest time, which means they do not get to play with the existing market price. All trees in the orchards are sold to suppliers (middlemen) in advance.
One betel nut grower, Ganga Maya Gurung said she sold her orchard of more than 200 trees at Nu 300,000 this year. “The price was good this year,” she said.
She said it was better to sell in lump sum. Lhamoizingkha is prone to windstorms and hailstones, she said, and explained it was better to sell before harvest for safer returns.
Growing areca nut is an age-old farming activity in Lhamoizingkha gewog, Lhamoizingkha drungkhag. With less attention required to nurture, every household has grown areca nut and plantation has increased over the years.
Karna Bahadur Rai of Farmgaon said betel nut farming is more lucrative than paddy and other vegetables in Lhamoizingkha. For him, growing betel nut in two orchards helped him finance construct his house.
“I have more than 200 areca nut trees in one orchard, which I have given as mortgage to borrow cash to construct my house in 2012,” he said. “This year the mortgage period will be over.”
From another orchard with 100 trees, Karna Bahadur Rai earned Nu 55,000 from a supplier this year.
Cultivation has increased in recent times in Kuendrelthang. Tshogpa Barun Majhi said that all have planted areca nut trees.
Barun Majhi said farmers do not earn much by selling their areca nut trees in advance but it is still practiced and suppliers make a marginal increase in the lump sum amount paid to farmers annually.
Lhamoizingkha gewog agriculture officer Sonam Wangdi said people sold in advance because most were financially unsound.
“They need money so they sell if off,” he said. “Yes, they do not make profit as per the market price.”
Sonam Wangdi said that they tried to convince the people in a meeting. However, he said that most cited reasons of financial circumstances for selling in advance.
Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha