Fate of Chatmohar betel leaf farmers left in the hands of nature

Iqbal Kabir Ranju, Chatmohar (Pabna)

In Bangladesh, many people ranging from teenagers to the elderly consumes betel leaves with betel nut and various spices due to habit or addiction.  As a result, there is a huge demand for betel leaves all over the country. The betel growers of Haripur Union in Chatmohar of Pabna produce betel to meet this demand but their fate depends entirely on the natural environment.

According to Chatmohar Agriculture Office sources, betel is cultivated on 30 hectares of land in Haripur Union of Chatmohar. Of this, ‘Dhani' betel leaf is grown on 22 hectares of land and ‘Bari Pan-2’ is produced on 8 hectares of land. There are a total of 225 betel growers in this union.

Monwar Hossain Nihar, a betel farmer from Tebaria village, said this year he has cultivated betel on about one Bigha of land. Due to its relatively low land area, the betel leaves rot and the trees were damaged in this year's heavy rains. He added that, about 12,800 betel leaves are planted on one Bigha of land. It requires 12,800 bamboo nails which cost Tk 25,000 to 30,000. 

He further said that, a straw canopy is provided above to protect the betel leaves from excessive cold and sun heat. In all, betel leaf firming on one Bigha of land costs about taka one lakh a year. 

If the tree is good, betel leaves can be collected for several years in a row and betel leaves can be sold for around taka two lakh per year.

Nur Mohammad, another betel leaf grower from the same village, said success in betel cultivation depends entirely on the weather. 

In heavy rains, betel leaves and tree roots rot. In the bitter winter, the young betel leaves fall off and the mature betel leaves ripen turning yellowish. The biggest betel leaf market in the area is Zonail. 

He added that, traders buy betel produced in this area and send it to Dhaka, Narayanganj, Netrokona, Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Sirajganj and other districts of the country. 

He also said that more betel leaves are produced in Tebaria, Gopalpur, Sondava, Dhulauri and Haripur of Chatmohar. 

At present, 80 betel leaves are being sold at Tk 20 to 120 depending on the size.