The Kerala Government has given its nod for tapping neera or unfermented sap from coconut across the State. Neera, sweet toddy that is a non-alcoholic drink, is got from the immature inflorescence of coconut.
A decision in this regard was taken at the stakeholders meeting convened by State Excise Minister K. Babu in Thiruvananthapuram.
The move could prove handy for the ailing coconut sector.
Neera tapping will be done in units of 1,500 coconut trees in each district across the State initially as a pilot project, it was decided at the meeting.
In Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts, where no toddy tapping is taking place now, more than one unit will be allowed to tap neera .
The Abkari laws that govern sale of liquor would be amended for production of neera , the Minister told the meeting.
The Minister pointed out that permission for producing neera would be given only to companies and federation affiliated to the Coconut Development Board.
Toddy tappers would be given preference to tapping coconut tree for neera .
Besides, neera technicians would be given membership in the Toddy Tappers Welfare Fund Board, the Minister said.
A committee appointed by the Kerala Government had recommended allowing tapping of neera with regulations.
The committee was constituted to study the possibilities and prospects of starting neera business in Kerala.
Moreover, the Coconut Development Board has been demanding for long that neera production be started to help revive the coconut sector.
The inclusion of this in the Kerala Abkari Act had led to misconceptions about Neera, thereby limiting its tapping in the State.
The Board was of the view that Neera should be within the purview of the Abkari Act as it is unfermented sap containing no alcohol.
The technological advances made in the processing and packaging of Neera ensure that it remains a zero alcoholic drink.
It also suggested starting neera tapping and production, processing and packaging under the auspices of Federations of Coconut Producers Societies.