Areca growers in State confront new 'Blast' threat

Areca growers in State confront new Blast threat

Leaders need to act now, says farmer leader Dr Kalkuli Vittal Hegde

Sringeri: Just when the Arecanut growers in the state were trying to get ready for the final battle against the yellow leaf disease that is afflicting severe damage to the plantations in Malnad and the Coastal regions of Karnataka, there is another threat looming large, sending chills among the farmers and the entire trading community. The new disease has been identified as a viral attack entitled 'Blast'

A tall leader of the Arecanut farmers Dr. Kalkuli Vittal Hegde of Sringeri has stated that the Arecanut growers in the state are in a grave situation. Over a lakh of areca nut growers in the state in 12 districts face problems due to two dimensions.

Firstly, the yellow leaf disease is still spreading into all parts of the areca growing districts while the three districts of Dakshina Kannada, Chikkamagaluru, Udupi and Uttara Kannada now have another affliction called the 'Blast' which is an airborne virus. Combined, these two diseases have the potential to wipe off over 70 % of standing plantations in the state in all 12 districts particularly in Chikkamgaluru district.

Dr. Hegde who is awarded a D.Litt from Kannada University at Hampi for his study on changing rain patterns and vegetation in the Western Ghats has references to why the change in the rain pattern and vegetation has its effect on the plantation crop.

He said despite the fact there are two research centres for the management of plantation crop diseases in the Malnad area and two more in the coastal districts, there has been no solution for these deadly diseases at afflicted Arecanut plantations in the state.

He said there are no scientists, or equipment in both research centres in Sringeri and Tarikere and things are not any different in the research centres on the coast. He urged the government to immediately release funds and commission top scientists to search for a solution for the two deadly diseases before it is too late.

Arecanut is mainly cultivated in the States of Karnataka, Kerala and Assam which together accounts for 86% of the area and it is also grown in Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, West Bengal, Goa, Mizoram and Andhra Pradesh in small quantities.

India is the largest producer of arecanut in the World. About 70 to 80 lakh Agricultural Families, mostly small and marginal farmers were involved directly in cultivation and completely dependent on it for their livelihood. Nearly 15-20 lakh paan shops are involved in selling paan all over India.

Arecanut cultivation, processing and its marketing provides direct and decent standard of living to more than three crore population in India while four crore people get indirect employment. Dr Hegde avers if the two diseases are not controlled soon, the farming community will be put into untold misery and vast plantations lands in Karnataka will plunge into a biological crisis. He has appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture but felt that nothing much is being done. "This has been going on for the last 70 years and why despite the best resources we have, the yellow leaf disease has not been controlled and I see no effort is being done to alleviate the menace of the new disease -Blast" Dr Hegde told Hans India. It is also estimated that about 1 lakh MTs of Arecanut is imported by giving concessional import duty from Asia Trading Partner Countries (ATPCs) "We perceive that the problems of Areca growers will only worsen in the coming years, this calls for a revision of import duty on Areca particularly when the domestic growers were facing a problem" said B Nagaraja Shetty who is an Areca grower from Buntwal.

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