A committee appointed by the government to study the problems faced by the toddy tapping industry and the possibilities of producing and marketing sweet toddy, Neera, has recommended opening of toddy parlours at taluk headquarters, tourist destinations, and other selected centres.

Excise Commissioner Anil Xavier and other committee members, after submitting the report to Excise Minister K. Babu, told presspersons here on Wednesday that the Excise Department should lay down norms for the buildings housing the parlours.

Selected toddy shops also could be converted into parlours. The auction period of toddy shops should be increased from one to three years. The functioning of toddy shops could be improved by making them more clean and hygienic and also serving indigenous dishes.

The rules for giving licence to draw sweet toddy should be amended. A licence from the Excise Department should be procured for the production of Neera. There are about 18 crore coconut palms in the State. On tapping one per cent of them, it will be of great help to the coconut farmers.

Applications for Neera

An application should be submitted to the department with the details of the coconut palms that could be tapped for the production of Neera. The department should mark the palms and issue permit without levying any fees or tree cess. The entire production and marketing process should be conducted under the supervision of the department. A State-level Toddy-Neera Development Board should be set up for the production of Neera and other value-added products. The funds for constituting the board could be garnered by levying a cess of Rs.1 per litre of IMFL sold.

The committee recommended to ensure due wages and job security to the toddy tappers. The production and marketing of Neera could be entrusted with the toddy workers. Once the ASEAN agreement comes into force on April 1, 2014, the import of Neera from such countries will begin and to overcome the situation, the State cannot afford to ignore the possibilities of local production.

INTUC leader N. Azakesan, in his dissent note to the report, said that Neera production should not end up in the plundering of government assets by those in the guise of coconut farmers. CITU leader K.M. Sudhakaran said that no scientific analysis had been done to find out whether Neera could be produced and marketed profitably. The basic issues facing coconut farmers were the fall in coconut price and disease affecting the palms. This had to be addressed, he said.

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