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Wayanad areca nut farmers in distress as prices fall


Nov. 29, 2019

Production of the nut falls due to diseases
A sharp fall in production owing to diseases affecting areca palms and a decline in the price of tender nuts have cast a shadow over the lives of farmers in Wayanad district, a major areca nut growing region in the State.
A sustainable income from the palms had helped the community manage a balanced family budget after the massive destruction of cash crops such as pepper in floods and the low price for rubber and coffee in the market. The spot price of tender areca nut in the regional market on Wednesday was ₹113 a kg as against ₹135 a kg during the corresponding period last year.
“Areca nut production in the district has fallen drastically owing to various diseases, especially yellow leaf disease, bud rot, and premature nut fall or Mahali disease,” says P. Sadanandan, a small-scale farmer at Kallur.
Farmers in the district prefer to harvest areca nut in the tender stage, mainly to maintain quality. Widespread prevalence of Mahali, owing to heavy rain this year, has adversely affected production.
The tender areca nut harvest season usually starts by the middle of August, but many farmers are yet to begin preparations for the harvest as they fear the operations will be unviable.
“The district received nearly 30% excess rainfall this year when compared with the normal precipitation during the monsoon,” says K. Ajithkumar, Associate Director, Research at the Regional Agriculture Research Station, Ambalavayal.
“The high humidity caused pathogens such as phytophthora fungus to spread widely, affecting the areca palms. Moreover, the root system of the plant gets damaged owing to flooding in low-lying areas, triggering yellow leaf disease,” Dr. Ajithkumar added.
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