THE betel nut trade has now become a national concern since it was raised several times on the floor of Parliament.
The issue was first raised by the former Central governor when betel nut ban was imposed by the NCD governor.
It was then raised by the Gulf governor before the two months state of emergency (SOE) was imposed and later by the Madang governor after the SOE.
Recently the current Central governor has raised similar sentiments.
Now when the governors speak, they represent about 150,000 to 200,000 plus people so it a big concern.
What is so important about this crop?
Look beyond betel nut’s unhygienic impacts and this is what you will discover.
It is a cash crop that engages more growers.
There are those who buy and sell in bulks and there are retailers.
People hire cars, boats and helpers to transport these nuts.
It is a crop that is transported across several provinces. For instance, bulk sellers buy from central Kaiva in Popondetta, pay K700 to be transported to Kausada beach and K10 per bag for storage.
The buyers hire a boat for K2,500-K3,000 to have the betel nuts transported to Lae.
A coaster bus is hired at K1,500-K2,000 transports it up to Western Highlands and Porgera in Enga.
A good cash flow from cities and towns down to remote villages such as Ainze in Gira (Popondetta).
We can say that it is one of the single cash crop that domestically provides employment opportunities to more people than any other crops.
IT is a cash crop that dominates the local domestic market.
It is one of the hottest crop traded along the Indonesia border apart from vanilla.
Although the Government gets tax when the trader buys other goods and services from the income made, it is a mere spectator along the trade chain and does not get any direct benefit (in form of tax) from it.
Apart from its dominance in the local market betel nut is a multimillion business in international markets especially in India, China, Thailand and our neighbour Indonesia, who are interested mainly in the dry nut.
The other products obtained from betel nut (areca nut family) include – biodegradable plates, plastic cups from the leaf sheath, fabric from twisted and refined husk used for pillow and other fabrication materials.
Juice from the nut are used as fertilisers (Google areca nut market and products).
If these products are exported, it will be a boost to the country’s economy.
There are so many untapped economical potential in betel nut than what we see and know.
When the betel nut ban was imposed, many growers were affected.
Growers are the biggest losers because for some, it is their only source of income.
It is time we look beyond betel nut’s negative impact, the filthiness from careless chewers and look at a more win-win situation in which all parties can benefit from this crop.
One way is to invite areca nut dealers/factories from China and Indonesia to establish their base in the affected provinces so that they can buy and produce something useful that can be exported.
This way both the Government and the growers can benefit from the areca nut (betel nut).