Coconut farmers may have to wait to launch full-scale neera business in the State with the latest Government Order (GO) remaining silent on amending Abkari rules that still technically prevent tapping, packaging, and selling of the unfermented, sweet sap from coconut flowers.

Government sources said that the latest order issued by the government on February 2 had only announced the authorisation of a few more entities for production and sale of neera. These new entities include the Kerala Agricultural University, bona fide jaggery producers, Kerala State Beverages (Manufacturing and Marketing) Corporation and Agro Industries Corporation in addition to the earlier list that included the Coconut Producer Societies and Federations under Coconut Development Board.

Sources said the latest order was silent on the crucial issue of amending Abkari rules, which still do not allow the tapping and sale of neera. Even if a coconut producer society or any of authorised entity applies for licence to tap and sell neera, the application could be rejected on technical grounds, they said.

However, Minister for Excise K. Babu told The Hindu on Sunday that amendments to Abkari rules would be effective soon. The proposal is being vetted by the Law Department and it would be another week to 10 days to before the order is out, the Minister said.

The government had issued an order in October last promising that the Abkari rules would be amended to allow neera tapping and sale by the authorised entities.

The recommendation to allow neera tapping and sales had come from a high-level committee headed by the Excise Commissioner, which was appointed to look into the problems ailing toddy business and to recommend ways to revamp it. The committee had also recommended that neera could be legally tapped with suitable amendment to Abkari rules.

The committee was appointed early in 2013 and the report was submitted in May 2013. A recommendation was to allow neera-tapping and sales by more than one entity each in the districts of Thiruvanantapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta. The recommendation was accepted by the government and was included in the order issued in October last.

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