Although, in India, Betel nut is primarily grown in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam, it has its presence in the South East Asian countries too and Nagpur being centrally located, is the hub of Betel nut trading. It is also the country’s largest market for Betel nut. The business of Betel nut is done albeit tacitly, since the nut causes health problems and is often involved in the theft of centre’s revenue. However, to keep this trade thriving, some traders of the Betel nut are working out to form an organization to keep the illegal practices in check. Some even plan to move out of the state to Madhya Pradesh since the problem of anti-social elements is much less there than Nagpur.
Betel nut is an important cash crop and is processed into pan-masala, gutka, scented supari etc. which have been extremely popular in our country. No wonder, India is the major producer of the consumer of Areca nut in the world. While, we in India, use the Betel nut for religious purposes, there are people who consume it by mouth and this nut is known to be highly carcinogenic too. It causes cancer of the mouth and oesophagus. Many people chew Betel nut for the energy boost it produces. This is likely due to the nut’s natural alkaloids, which release adrenaline. It many also result in feelings of euphoria.
It may be mentioned that a good Betel nut is called ‘Lali’ and a sub-standard one ‘Fali’ in traders’ language. Nagpur is the biggest hub for the Betel nut trade in the country and therefore home to a lot of illegal warehouses. But then, just like any other business, this one too supports a lot of families and homes, and the traders, along with the government are trying their best to introduce fair practices into the Betel nut trade.
If only, people would stop consuming it by mouth to avoid serious diseases like cancer, the nut would earn some brownie points because an important by-product of the Areca nut industry is the husk of the nuts can be utilized for making particle boards, paper etc. ‘Chogaru’, a by-product obtained from the processing of tender nut is rich in tannins, which is used in the leather industry for converting hides into skins. With such utility, this nut should be encouraged to grow but with checks and balances.