The price of betel leaf has registered an abnormal rise over the last two weeks in the local market of the district. Due to such increase of the palatable chewing delicacy, betel-leaf chewing fans of the district have turned hopeless.
In various betel leaf shops of the city and suburban areas, a single, processed betel leaf mingled with betel-nut, lime and other spices is being sold at Tk 4.0 to Tk 5.0.
Regular consumers of betel leaf who are mainly from lower income group of people, housewives and retired officials and employees said the price of both small, middle and large sized betel leaf has been increased abnormally. Not only in the retail market but also the wholesale rate is also increased.
Hanif, a betel leaf wholesale trader at Mohanganj informed, during February to May every year, the price of betel-leaf registered an increase. During this period, a lot of picnic, marriage ceremony and family functions are usually held throughout the country. Moreover, several religious festivals of Hindu and the Adibashi community are also held during this period where betel-leaf is an essential ingredient. Bitter cold wave and chilly fog hangs over the betel leaf growing region of Rajshahi during the winter which also destroyed many betel leaf farms (Baroj) completely that is why there was short supply of betel leaf in the markets of the district now.
Abdul Khaleque (55), another betel leaf trader at Naohata said, the demand of betel leaf has been increased while at the same time the supply of it has been decreased. That is why the price of betel leaf in both wholesale and in retail markets have been increased. He informed, in local haats and markets of the district, small sized betel-leaf is being sold from Tk 110 to Tk 130 per 60 (during counting 60 or five dozens of betel leaves are regarded as a 'Bira' - a unit of sale in Bangla) leaves while medium size betel leaf is being sold at Tk 160 to Tk 200 per 60 and large sized, super quality betel leaves are being sold at Tk 260 to Tk 280 per bira.
Betel leaf farmer Enamul of Bagdhani area under Paba upazila said betel leaf has been regarded as cash crop of several thousand village people of Rajshahi for thousands of years. During the recent winter, the recurrent, lingered cold wave and fog made virus infestation in betel leaf farm (Baroj) and farmers found it difficult to save their betel leaf even after applying pesticides and fungicides in their fields. He opined, more than 60 per cent of betel leaf farms of the district were damaged due to pest infestation this year and the supply of betel leaf would further dwindle during the days to come. It was unlikely that the price of betel leaf might decrease until newly-harvested leaves appeared from farms next March-April.
Meanwhile, Jugli Kishore, a retail betel leaf seller at Shaheb Bazar in Rajshahi said due to abnormal rise of price of betel leaf many consumers were withdrawing from taking the delicacy and thus the selling of betel leaf has also dropped in many shops.
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