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AP gutkha ban leads to panic arecanut sales

Our Bureau

MANGALORE, Feb. 25

WITH Andhra Pradesh following Kerala and Tamil Nadu in banning gutkha, the Mangalore-based arecanut and cocoa growers' co-operative, Campco, has decided to intensify its two-year-old lobbying for the protection of the interests of areca growers.

Amidst rumours of a roll-back of the 100-per cent import duty levied on arecanut last year, the ban has sent shock waves through the areca belt in Karnataka with trading having collapsed in the Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka on Friday. Reports of panic selling and other signs of the market going haywire have also been pouring in from across the areca belt.

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, the Campco President, Mr B. Nagaraja Shetty, said the board of directors of Campco would be meeting shortly to chalk out an action plan on how to face the current crisis. With areca prices having just about stabilised after a series of downward plunges over the past several months, this new crisis is expected to hit the red variety of arecanut_ the prices of which had stabilised in the Rs 85-100 range. The red variety of arecanut is widely used in the production of gutkha.

Stating that Campco was not averse to any Government identifying and banning the harmful ingredients in gutkha, Mr Shetty sought a proper content analysis of the various varieties of gutkha to identify and ban ingredients that might be proved to be injurious to the health of the consumers.

In the context of cheap imports of low-grade arecanut flooding the market and causing a plummeting of prices, he called for a continuation of import duty on arecanut for at least another two years.Campco is to shortly sign a memorandum of understanding with the Kerala Government for the disbursement of a Rs 10-crore subsidy for the white variety of arecanut. The subsidy of Rs 10 per kg is to be offered over the next five months to certified areca growers.

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