Rising costs force Bharatpur villagers to leave betel farming | jaipur | Hindustan Times
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Rising costs force Bharatpur villagers to leave betel farming

Rising input costs and lack of technical support to fight crop diseases have forced many villagers in Rajasthan to give up betel farming and migrate to cities to work as daily wagers for a living

jaipur Updated: Jul 05, 2017 20:39 IST
Suresh Foujdar
Women working at a betel leaf farm in Bharatpur.
Women working at a betel leaf farm in Bharatpur.(HT Photo)

Farmers do not find betel cultivation lucrative anymore. Rising input costs and lack of technical support to fight crop diseases have forced many villagers in Rajasthan to give up betel farming and migrate to cities to work as daily wagers for a living.

People of Tamoli caste have been growing plants for hundreds of years at Khareri, Bagrain, Khankheda and Umrain villages in Bayana sub-division of Bharatpur district. Betel leaves are also produced in Masalpur, Uprera and Rathmora villages in Karauli district.

Betel leaves, called ‘paan’, are supplied from these villages to Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Mathura, Aligarh, Varanasi and Bulandshahar. Known for good quality and taste, the leaves are also exported to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Arab countries.

“Betel leaves are sold in many cities through mediators in Delhi; we get ₹200 to ₹300 for each packet of 200 leaves,” said Daujiram Tamoli of Bagrain village.

Nearly 500 households of Tamoli caste have been involved in betel farming, but 50% of them left the cultivation after they failed to meet the costs, mainly for irrigation, and fight the leaf diseases. They said they did not get financial assistance from government.

“Our ancestors from Karauli started betel cultivation 900 years ago. Maximum farmers are now forced to leave the cultivation due to leaf diseases and for failing to afford farming costs,” Daujiram said.

Most of the farmers are settled in Jaipur to earn a livelihood and support their families.

Betel leaves, once dubbed green gold, are used as chewing stimulants. They are widely used during religious events and festivals.

Artificial blocks (bereja) are constructed with bricks to grow betel vines. Blocks are necessary to control temperature and protect leaves from direct sunlight and fog. Betel needs moderate temperature and is vulnerable to weather changes.

About 250 households cultivated betel leaves at Khareri, 60 at Bagrain, and 40 at Khankheda. They faced leaf diseases in 2003. The diseases continued to damage leaves till 2012, but officials did not provide expert advice, farmers said. They said they did not get loans to develop farming.

Betel plants are grown in April and leaves are plucked from July first week. Leaves grow in a plant for five years.

Betel farming needs regular irrigation -- five times a day; leaves are covered with clothes to protect them from sunlight. Each farmer uses nearly 8 acres of land to grow betel leaves and he can earn ₹2-3 lakh in a year from this cultivated area.

Palmolive and mustard oil, milk, curd, flour and turmeric powder are put in plant roots to produce high-quality green leaves.

Women also collect leaves and then clean them for sale. “We have adopted Khareri village to help out Tamoli caste people who grew betel leaves. A sum of ₹4 lakh was provided as bank loan to women who participate in betel farming,” said Sitaram Gupta, director of Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation.

“The foundation is committed to providing education and medical help for their children.”

He said, “Betel farmers face natural calamity and need crop insurance. After betel leaves start smelling, snakes come to betel fields. Farmers work with fear of snakes.”