Agri Business

With GI tag, will the Tirur betel leaf go places?

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on October 08, 2019

Betel farm in Chembra near Tirur in Malappuram district, Kerala

Kerala betel leaf farmers are pinning hopes on the Geographical Indication status received for Tirur Vettila, the unique betel leaf variety from Malappuram district of the State, as the tag is likely to enhance its marketability in Asian markets.

Pakistan was a major market for Tirur Vettila till 2016, when the government imposed restrictions by levying additional duties on the merchandise trade between the two countries following the border skirmishes. Pakistan used to ship around 20 tonnes of Tirur Vettila daily and from there, the product found its way to Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Pakistani market has now been completely taken over by Sri Lankan betel leaves, M Beerankutty, Secretary, Tirur Vettila Ulpadaka Sangham, told BusinessLine.

The disruption in exports also led to a production drop of this particular betel variety, despite good demand in North Indian markets. The decline in revenue from exports and high labour cost have forced farmers to shift their focus to other areas. Today, on an average, around five tonnes of Tirur Vettila is being transported by rail to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Itarsi etc on a daily basis, fetching around ₹5 lakh revenue, he said.

Emerging markets

In the light of Tirur Vettila getting GI status, Beerankutty wants the government to make efforts to find new markets for the product as Bangladesh, West Asia as well as Africa are some of the emerging markets.

The scientists at the Kerala Agriculture University which facilitated for the GI tag pointed out that Tirur betel leaves have significantly high content of total chlorophyll and protein and more pungency than many other cultivars. Eugenol is the major essential oil contributing to its pungency. The shelf life of this betel leaf is also more compared with similar varieties.


Rail bottleneck

A Abdul Latheef, a trader of betel leaf in the region pointed out that the short stoppage of trains at Tirur Railway Station also affected the transportation of betel leaves to upcountry markets. The limited time for loading the cargo from Tirur has forced traders to take the products to Chennai by road for onward movement, which is time-consuming and expensive.

The traders have given several representations for increasing stoppage time of trains at Tirur for loading the cargo, but there has been no response so far, he said.



Published on October 08, 2019

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