Betel back in Taiwan

Taiwan may finally let down its guard on betel nut imports. The country's Agriculture Ministry has plans to lift a decades-old import ban on what has come to be known as "Taiwanese chewing gum" in order to boost its chances of joining GATT. The market for betel nut has grown in the last decade and now poses a challenge to rice, Taiwan's principal cash crop. Production has skyrocketted from 30, 000 metric tonnes in 1984 to 137, 000 tonnes in 1993.

Indigenous betel nut production has become unpopular for several reasons. Over the last decade betel nut production has soared, causing severe erosion on mountain slopes which have been cleared to make way for betel palms. Betel chewing has also been linked to a high incidence of oral cancer.