Nagesh Prabhu and T.S. Ranganna
Horticulture Department preparing policy for commercial production of neera
Cabinet is likely to approve the draft policy soonThe drink can be preserved for two months
and T.S. Ranganna
Bangalore: The State Government is taking measures to promote `neera' extracted from coconut palms as a sweet beverage. The Horticulture Department is preparing a policy for the commercial production of neera. The Cabinet is likely to approve the draft policy soon.
The technology to process and preserve neera has been developed by the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore. The nutritious drink can be packaged in sachets and bottles and preserved for two months. The Government plans to promote it as an energy drink with medicinal value.
According to an official in the Horticulture Department, there is potential to produce one crore litres of neera a day. The Government came up with the plan to promote neera following the crash in prices of coconut and copra.
The State has coconut plantations spread over 4.5 lakh hectares, second only to Kerala. Coconut production often exceeds domestic consumption, resulting in a glut. This leads to huge losses to farmers.
The market for neera and products made using it will be developed on the basis of a private-public partnership, the official said. Neera has become an alternative source of income for farmers in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It was sold at Rs. 10 a litre in many parts of the coconut-growing districts during the S.M. Krishna regime, with the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha spearheading the agitation for the right to sell neera.
The department plans to constitute a Neera Board. It will monitor the quality of the beverage and products made from it, such as jaggery, candy, sugar and chocolate. It will accord approval to labels submitted by industries and come up with a marketing plan. The Board will have representatives of coconut growers, the Horticulture Department and the Coconut Development Board.