The State government intends to procure raw coconut from farmers in the State from February next. The decision comes in the wake of widespread complaints on the sustainability in the sector, with the prices of coconut falling below remunerative levels. The government is also keen on giving a fresh look at the prevailing demand to permit extraction of neera, a sweet drink derived from coconut palm.
Agriculture Minister K.P. Mohanan reiterated the government’s stand on helping the farming sector in general and the coconut farmers in particular, at a meeting convened by the Coconut Development Board in Kochi on Friday. The Minister’s statement is a source of comfort for the farming community. Nevertheless, most of the farmers remain unenthusiastic about the offers as the procedures involving the government machinery are often cumbersome.
Setting up of three coconut bio-parks is another initiative being taken up by the government in a bid to integrate the latest scientific developments on the farm front and to manufacture products that could add value to the coconut-based industry. The strategy is to enable the farmer to be competitive in the fast changing global scenario.
The Coconut Development Board, headed by T.K.Jose, has chalked out plans to expand the horizons of coconut sector. It has formed societies of farmers across Kerala for effective cooperation in production, harvesting, and marketing.
The Board has been vehemently calling for policy initiatives to permit tapping of neera. Analytical studies conducted by various scientific bodies on the prospects of the product indicate good scope for expanding the market reach through innovative products.
The Karnataka government has already given permission to go ahead with a pilot project for tapping neera. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) and Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore, are providing technology to preserve neera. Selling it in the market in liquid form or as derivatives at a good price will ultimately benefit the growers.
Opposition from the Excise Department is understood to be delaying grant of permission for tapping neera. Toddy tapping is an avenue for multi-crore revenue earning for the government. Tapping of neera could come in the way of it and a number of issues associated with revenue and toddy tapping and selling have added several dimensions to it. Though the government has made its intention known to the public now, it could take considerable time before it is implemented, if at all the proposal reaches such a stage.