Betel nut: A Friday business

Every Friday a corner of Islamia Haat gets abuzz with sellers surrounding themselves with bunches of a small yellowish-fruit. They start arriving there in the morning and continue their trade till the sun goes down.

It is good business, but lasts only for four months.

Like many of the seasonal sellers of this fruit, known as areca nut or betel nut, grocer Abdur Rahim keeps his regular business off on Fridays these days.

“We get just four months from September to December for collecting areca nut as the fruit matures enough to be plucked during this time. So, the four-month period is very important for us to store the item for the year round,” Rahim said.

This seasonal business gives a boost to his family earnings.

While the nut is consumed all the year round in dried, cured, and fresh forms, the plucking season lasts for only four months and hence this business.

In South Asian region, areca nut is chewed with betel leaf and lime.

Though it is usually chewed after meals, most special occasions remain incomplete in Bangladesh without having betel nut wrapped with betel leaf.

Islami Haat, a selling hub for this nut, kicks off at 10:00am and continues till the evening. The customers are mostly wholesalers. They come from nearby localities as well as from faraway places like Fotupur, Fotyeabad, and Chorar Iskul.

Seller Rahim said he collected a bunch of 80 nuts for Tk 50-100 and sold each cluster for Tk 150-250 depending on the quality. “I sell around five to six thousand nuts every week, earning Tk 4,000 to Tk 5,000,” he said.

Another seller, Abdun Nabi, said, “We collect the item roaming around our union. In our Chikondondi union there are at least 400 homesteads from where we collect the nut.”

Almost all their supplies come from homesteads because few people commercially cultivate this, he said.

Families planted the trees to meet their own demand, and over the years they grew in numbers bringing a boon both for the house owners and the sellers, he added.

Abdul Khaleque, another seller, said, “It is a seasonal trade that we do only for four months. When it will end, we will go back to our main professions ranging from tea shop to grocery business.”

Arriving in the market from the port city’s Oxygen area, Harunur Rashid said, “The betel nut we buy from here is better than those available in the city.”

My parents are regular consumers, he said. “I have come to buy the quality betel nut not only for my family, but also for others who visit us.”