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Demand for MSP: Agri Minister says support to arecanut farmers extended

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Shillong, Feb 20: The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly on Tuesday witnessed a lengthy discussion on the plight of the areca nut plantation or betel nut farmers.

UDP leader Lahkmen Rymbui on Tuesday raised questions if the government can tie up with marketing facilities and come up with a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for areca nut.

Rymbui emphasised that the farmers of areca nut all over state are distressed because the price of arecanut per hundred number is half from what it was last year.

He added that this has incurred huge loss to the income of these farmers.

Rymbui mentioned that the area of cultivation of arecanut is increasing from 18,231 hectare in the year 2019-20, now it has increased to 34,410 hectare and production is also subsequently increased adding to more contribution to the economy.

“It reflects that people of the state are moving to arecanut cultivation but the price has been decreasing year by year. Would ask the government that apart from the incentives it is giving, is the government thinking of promoting the areca nut product outside of the state?” Questioned Rymbui during the question hour of the Budget Session.

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Dr Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh acknowledged that there has been a surge of production of areca nut in the state. She stated, “However this data maybe viewed from a perspective that in all likelihood in the earlier years there has been weak application of data collection. So we see now after the agriculture department has increased its research facilities, we are now able to give proper data about the growing of areca nut in the state.”

Lyngdoh informed the House that, 46 processing units consisting of working shed, de-husking machines, solar tunnel dryers and soaked pits are being set up across 21 blocks in 10 districts.

The total cost of these is 14.06 cr. 34 units have been completed and the remaining 12 units will be completed in the coming months.

She added that 10 lakh interest free working capital loan for aggregation and marketing of arecanut has been given to each of the 46 cooperatives.

Lyngdoh also mentioned that betelnut or arecanut farmers have also been challenged with the incidents of bud rot disease in some areas of the state.

In 2021-22, planting material of short gestation crops like banana and pineapple were given to 3,581 farmers whose arecanut plantation had been affected by bud rot.

“The same will be continued this year and additional interest free working capital loans will also be given. Spraying of bordeaux mixture will also be undertaken to prevent the spread of bud rot,” said Lyngdoh.

Lyngdoh also mentioned that since areca nut is considered not healthy but they are finding some compromise on their ability to assist the farmers.

UDP MLA urged the minister that even though they understand it is not healthy but this has been an indigenous product and has been a livelihood of the people, so the government should look into it.

Govt will deliberate on MSP

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma made a supplementary answer, that it is based on GOI that it’s unhealthy but the stand of the government has always been that it’s an indigenous product and thousands of farmers depend on it.

“It is our duty to support we will continue to support in whatever way and keep augmenting in different ways that we can,” assured the chief minister.

Sangma also assured the UDP MLA that concerning MSP the government will get it examined.

He also added that the Value of processed areca nut sells ten times the price. “Today processed areca nut is sold at 400-500 rs per kg, so we realised the way forward is processing areca nut. We will continue to expand and value addition is the only right way to move forward,” said Sangma.

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