Short supply sends betel nut prices up

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BETEL nut prices have skyrocketed to $4 this week due to scarcity of the product from suppliers on Guadalcanal.

According to one vendor, a 10 kilogramme bag betelnut used to cost $80 to $90 but now is nearly $200.

While the 20kg bag of betelnut used to cost $170-$190, it has now increased between $500 and $700.

“This is the reason why we increase the price of our betel together with its leaf to $4.

“The small betel nuts with its leaf cost about $3,” the vendor said.

One vendor said she told her customers to take betelnuts through credit in order to make profit from the sale.

“If I allow people to take on credit, I will not make any profit because the bag of betel nuts is very expensive now,” she said.

With the country now in the rainy season, vendors are expecting low supplier of betelnuts until next year.

According to University of Hawaii, the scientific name for betel nut, sometimes spelled betelnut, is Areca catechu.

It is currently only found in cultivation so the exact origin of the species is unknown. South Asia, southeast Asia, and the Philippines have been suggested as areas of origin.

The kernels of both green and ripe fruits (often called “nuts”) are chewed as an astringent and stimulant, often in combination with the leaves or fruit of betel pepper (Piper betel) and lime.

Betel nut was introduced to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the western Micronesian islands by early indigenous voyagers.

Since then, its use and cultivation has spread eastward to Fiji, Samoa, and other Pacific islands.

It is a major commercial crop in south Asia where it is widely used, but in the Pacific, it is generally grown for local consumption or for interisland trade.