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Nutty Issue: Illegal Imports From Myanmar Hit India Areca Nut Growers Hard

One has heard of gold being smuggled, and diamonds too, and drugs, and contrabands, and cough syrups even, but one must be completely nutty to even imagine smuggling nuts into the country. Yes, the Indian authorities are today faced with the daunting task of stopping areca nuts being smuggled into India, through the Indo-Myanmar border. No paan, gutkha or paan masala is complete without the supari — the areca nut or betel nut. The current areca nut market size in India is estimated at $ 0.92 bn, and is expected to touch $ 1.16 bn by 2029. Areca nut is mainly grown in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Mizoram and Manipur. For areca nut growers it is their only means of survival. Now, the illegal smuggling of the nuts from Myanmar has hit them hard. The reason for it being smuggled is the 100% import duty. And this illegal smuggling has crashed the local market. Earlier, a 50-60 kg bag of fresh areca nuts sold for Rs2,500-2800. Now, it is being sold at Rs 1,085. Complicating the problem is the fact that there is no way to distinguish the Indian nuts from the smuggled ones, in fact there is no competent authority which can differentiate the Indian nuts from the Myanmar-ese ones. And so, while the authorities chew on this nutty issue, the nut growers in India particularly those in Manipur and Mizoram are a distressed lot.