Bhubaneswar, Oct. 20: Cyclone Phailin, which struck the state on October 12 evening, has destroyed several acres of betel vineyards, pushing the price of paan up by 50 paise each. A kadda (one bundle of 50 betel leaves), which used to cost Rs 15 to 20, is now priced at Rs 40.
“Since we have to buy betel leaves at higher rates, there was no other option than to increase the price of each paan,” said Rabi Behera, a local betel shop owner. In several urban markets, a paan now costs Rs 2.50. The cyclone has snatched the livelihood of thousands of betel farmers in the state’s coastal belts, with Ganjam being the worst hit.
“Our business has been severely affected. The supply has gone down by 70 per cent,” said Krushna Chandra, 52, a wholesale trader at Chandanpur near Puri, which is one of the state’s biggest betel markets after Kakatpur.
Market sources said that prior to Phailin, the state, apart from meeting its local requirements, used to send betel leaves worth nearly Rs 1 crore daily, mainly to Bihar, Bengal, Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. A major chunk also goes to Mumbai and Surat. Once packed, the betel leaves stay fresh for 15 days.
“If we calculate the entire business at this moment, it will not be more than Rs 30 lakh a day,” said Krushna Chandra Parida, a betel leaf wholesale trader of Chandanpur.
Other major betel markets are Baliapal and Bhograi in Balasore. Ashok Parida, 44, a farmer of the heritage village Raghurajpur near Chandanpur said: “The entire cultivation has been affected in Puri district. It will take nearly three to four months for the business to become normal.”
Parida said he now has to invest nearly Rs 50,000 to 70,000 for each plot of betel vineyard for his business to bounce back. He is, however, worried about unscrupulous traders, who are forcing many cultivators like him to sell his paan kaddas at cheaper rates citing poor quality.
Farmers in Baliapal echoed also his sentiments.
The cost of paan is expected to increase further as people celebrate Kartik Purnima in the coming month.
“At the end of the Kartik month, every Odia family will float miniature boats with paan and earthen lamps placed on them to symbolise marine voyages undertaken by their ancestors,” said a betel farmer of Chandanpur area, Madhu Sudan Behera.