Zafar Alam, Cox’s Bazar:
Ukhia Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar has had a bumper crop of betel nuts this season. Due to the favorable weather conditions and no natural calamities, the betel nut plantations are abundant in yield. Farmers are also happy as the price of betel nut in the market is also unexpectedly good.
Betel leaf traders say that betel leaves are shipped from Teknaf Shamlapur Bazar, Jahazapura Bazar, Teknaf Bazar, Ukhia Sadar, Sonapara Bazar, Morichya Bazar, Court Bazar to different parts of the country. Traders are benefiting as betel nut plantation owners are of the opinion that by marketing their cash crop betel nuts can bring prosperity back to many impoverished families. Baharchhara, one of the betel-nut production unions of Teknaf upazila, is known to visit the betel-nut traders in Shamlapur market, every Saturday and Tuesday, Shamlapur market is held.
Betel nut trade is one of the profitable crops in this market. Talking to Abdullah, a wholesaler in Shamlapur market, it is known that 80 betel nuts are being sold for 2.50 taka. He also said that on every market day, 5/6 trucks weighing about 20 tons of betel nuts go to different markets in the country. Jager Hossain (45), a farmer of Baharchhara Shilkhali in Teknaf Upazila, said that 458 trees planted in one kani (40th century) of land have produced a bumper crop of betel nut. Each tree has 400 to 500 betel nuts. Due to the market price of betel nuts, he thinks that it is possible to earn about 3 lakh rupees from this garden by selling betel nuts. According to sources, betel nut of Teknaf-Ukhia has been valued in the country since ancient times.
Betel leaves of Teknaf are accompanied by folk songs about Paan of Maheshkhali. Since ancient times, huge betel nut plantations have been developed in the south-eastern border town of the country. Besides, there are more or less betel nut orchards in every upazila of the district. The tradition of entertaining guests with paan is going on in almost all areas of Cox’s Bazar. Ripe betel nuts come together in the dry season every year. In that continuity, betel nut shops have accumulated in various places of the district including Teknaf-Ukhia. Although the price was low in the beginning, now the farmers are happy to get good price of betel nut in the market.
In Cox’s Bazar, betel nuts are usually sold in various bazaars. However, the biggest wholesale markets in the district are Teknaf Baharchhar, Shamlapur Bazar, Ukhiyar Sonarpara Bazar, Morichya Bazar, Kotbazar and Ramu Bazar. Teknaf Shamlapur Bazar holds big wholesale bazaar on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Traders from different districts of the country come and buy betel nuts in this market. Betel nut traders said that during the season, betel nuts are sold and bought in hundreds of huts, markets and different places in the district. They buy betel nuts from the farmers and generally sell them in three ways. Raw betel nuts are dried in the sun and sold at the rate of Tk 400 to 500 per kg. Ripe betel nuts are bought from the market after rotting (soaked) in water for 3 to 4 months and sold in the market. The betel nuts soaked in water are called wet betel nuts in the local language, the demand for these wet betel nuts is high, so the price is also good.
Farmers said that the cost of betel nut cultivation is very low compared to other crops. The first 2-3 years of planting seedlings have to be a little difficult. Then there is a fear of eating small seedlings by cows and goats. In the beginning, a small amount of fertilizer should also be applied to the land. The tree bears fruit after 5-6 years. Once the fruit is produced, it can bear fruit for at least 40 years. There is no cost after the result. 300 to 500 pieces of betel nuts are obtained from each tree in a year depending on the size. Shamlapur market trader Nurunnabi said that locally 80 pieces of betel nuts cost one pon. In the current market, betel nuts are being sold at the rate of Tk 200 to Tk 250 per quintal. Every season we buy betel nuts from different markets and village farmers and sell them to the traders coming from different districts which makes us good profit.
Betel nut farmers say that betel nut is the main income earner of Ukhia-Teknaf. Betel leaves from two upazilas come to Shamlapur market. There is a market in Shamlapur market on Saturday and Tuesday.
There is no place to store the betel nuts that come to the Shamlapur market. They strongly demanded for the benefits of the farmers and traders to bring them to the market. The government gets lakhs of rupees revenue every year from this market. Cox’s Bazar District Agriculture Officer Kabir Hossain said, the amount of betel nut produced in Cox’s Bazar district, it is possible to earn a lot of foreign currency by exporting it outside the country. We are constantly motivating the farmers. Our Sub-Assistant Agricultural Officers at field level are engaged for technical assistance and advice to the farmers in any cultivation. Many savvy betel nut orchard owners have fertilized and irrigated the trees during the dry season.
For this reason, bumper crop of betel nut has been produced everywhere this year, he said.