Borokamata, a village half a kilometre north of Chandina Bazar by the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway in Cumilla's Debidwar upazila, has been renowned for the last 100 years for betel leaf farming.
It has maintained that fame to this day, besides being also famous for weaving traditional Khadi.
Every week, betel leaf worth around Tk67 lakh is supplied to Chandina Bazar, the only such market in Cumilla, from this village alone, which produces 80% of the district's total production of betel leaf.
The weekly market sits every Monday and Tuesday after 8pm. Each time, around 30,000 biras of betel leaf (each having 96 leaves) cultivated in Borokamata are sold. So, about 60,000 biras are sold at two haats, according to local farmers.
Of these, 12,000 biras are sold for khili paan (a single piece of betel leaf sold in small shops together with betel nut and different spices). Each bira of khili paan is sold for Tk200-Tk250. The rest is sold for Tk90 per bira.
Local wholesale betel traders buy the chewing leaves from the market.
From this market, betel is supplied to different upazilas of the district and to Dhaka as well.
Md Shohidul Haque, Cumilla district agriculture officer, said the lion's share of betel produced in the district comes from Borokamta. The market value of it was worth around Tk67 lakh per week, he added.
Apart from Borokamta, betel is also cultivated in some villages of Chandina upazila, Burichang and Borura upazila.
Farmers of Borkomata said that after the end of winter season, more betel will be produced. But the increased supply of betel will decrease the prices, they said.
Going to Borokamta, one can see rows of betel plants in the fields. Farmers and agricultural workers are taking care of the plants. In order to avoid damage during heavy rains, betel plants have been planted on relatively high ground. The land is fenced off with old cloth and bamboo.
Talking to the farmers, it was established that 300 farmers of Borkomata are involved in betel farming. Around 2,000 agricultural workers work with them. The daily wage of an agricultural worker is Tk400-Tk500.
There are about 12,000 betel plantations locally known as paner boroj in this village. The annual cost for 100 plantations is Tk2-Tk2.5 lakh.
Betel is produced throughout the year. If it does not start to rot, a betel plant can produce for 10 consecutive years. Mahalani, chalta koda and gayashur varieties of betel are cultivated in Borkomata.
Most of the betel planters in the village are from the Hindu Barai community. They have been involved in cultivating betel there for more than 100 years.
Bidhubhushan Das has been cultivating betel in Borkomata village for 40 years. He said, "I have cultivated betel on 18 decimals of land. It cost me Tk15,000. This year, I will be able to earn Tk40,000."
Another farmer is Asim Chandra. He has been cultivating betel for more than 20 years. This time, he has cultivated betel on 30 decimals of land, spending Tk30,000. He hopes he will be able to sell betel worth around Tk1,00,000.
Uttam Kumar Kabiraj, agriculture officer of Debidwar upazila, said, "Betel cultivation has brought prosperity to the people of this village. The Department of Agriculture is cooperating with them all the time, providing them the necessary recommendations."