KENDRAPARA: The betel leaf farmers of Kendrapara district too have not been spared of the negative impact of demonetisation. Many of whom who had expected some relief after the 50-day deadline, were upset with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on New Year eve.

The betel leaf cultivators claim the demand for their produce has witnessed a sharp decline after November 8, when demonetisation was introduced. Some change in the Centre’s stand would have brought some relief for the growers, they said.

Around 5000 farmers of the seaside villages of the district recently harvested a bumper crop worth Rs 4 crore. The sandy land in villages has all the ingredients for a booming betel leaf cultivation and betel  leaf farming has always been a reliable and lucrative business. But, demonetisation dealt a death blow to the farmers.

Sanjaya Manna, a farmer of Pethachela village said, “We used to sell 1000 betel leaves at Rs 1000 to businessmen from Kolkata, Mumbai, Benaras and other places. But, the businessmen have stopped coming and due to non-supply of paan to the major cities we are now forced to sell 1000 paan leaves at Rs 800 in local market.”

Most of the betel leaf farmers depend on cash transactions and hence are finding it difficult to sustain losses, he added. “Many of our customers have no cash to purchase the betel leaves. We sell paan leaves on credit only to a few regular customers  and businessmen. We earn about Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per week in the local markets. But after November 8,  our sales have dropped to 50 per cent and we have not earned more than Rs 10,000 a week”, said Manas Mandal, a betel leaf farmer of Jamboo village.

This is the worst time for our business, said Ashok Behera of Suniti village. “I am in deep trouble as the sales of paan have plummeted”, he added.

The produce from the coastal villages are transported in trains to big cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and other areas of the country. People in those cities prefer Odisha’s betel leaf because of its size, aroma and thick stalk. These unique qualities are not found in other betel leaf varieties in the country,” said Sangram Pradhan, a betel leaf grower of Jamboo village.

Basudev Swain (53), a supplier said,  “Thrice a month I supply paan packets by train to Mumbai . This time I could manage to send the stock to Mumbai only once. Each year betel leaf suppliers send betel leaf worth `12 crore from Odisha to businessmen to other cities,” added Swain.

“We engage workers to pluck betel leaves and other paan growing works in the betel vineyards.  Due to shortage of cash we have failed to give wages to many workers, added Swain.