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Covid-19 Pandemic Continues to Hit Trade of “Green Gold of India”

Tirur betel leaf variety, also called Green Gold of India, takes a hit due to Covid-10 pandemic.

Shipra Singh
Betel leaf
Betel leaf

The novel Coronavirus and the lockdowns due to it have affected the world and various aspects of people’s lives and businesses. One of them is the trading of betel leaves, which is called “Green Gold of India.” Particularly affected is the Tirur betel variety of Malappuram district of Kerala. Farmers growing this unique variety were forced to abandon harvesting of this crop in June-July last year. The cancellation of celebrations severely hit cultivation of betel leaf and its business.  

However, as lockdowns lifted and train services resumed, demand of betel leaves in North India is beginning to gain momentum, but there is still a long way to go for betel leaf growers.  

According to the Assistant Director of Agriculture, KJ Oneil, Tanur Block, about 7000 families residing in six block panchayats of Malappuram do Tirur cultivation with a produce of 2 lakh leaves daily. A single piece is priced at Rs. 0.90. However, during lockdown the price dipped to a measly Rs. 0.15-0.20 per piece.  

After the lockdowns, prices rose, but were still Rs. 0.60 per piece. Yet, with the second wave of Covid-19, the prices again dropped to Rs. 0.40.  

Lockdowns severely hit the transportation of betel leaves throughout the country and outside. Tirur is the most sought after betel leaves variety in North India and Pakistan.  

According to the Coordinator of IPR Cell of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), the ban imposed by the government on spitting in public affected people’s habit of chewing tobacco during the lockdown. This, too, contributed to the decline in the trade of betel leaves.  

Why is Tirur betel leaf unique? 

Tirur variety of betel leaves have a higher chlorophyll and protein content. They are more pungent than other varieties. Eugenol, the chief essential oil present in the Tirur variety, gives it high pungency. Tirur Vettila received Geographical Indication (GI) tag in January 2020.  

Exploring the medicinal side of the “Green Gold of India” 

There are numerous uses and benefits of betel leaves. Betel leaves also have medicinal properties. KAU has proposed the promoting of medicinal uses of betel leaves in collaboration with companies involved in the manufacture of Ayurvedic medicines. Betel leaves are also used in toothpaste. KAU, under the mentorship of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, is also exploring the usage of betel vines in the preparation of papad 

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