Theweekendleader

Non-alcoholic neera awaits Kerala government nod

Sanu George   |  Thiruvananthapuram

13-May-2013

Neera, a coconut water-based non-alcoholic drink, is awaiting the Kerala government's nod to become a money spinner for coconut farmers in the state.

"I am optimistic of a favourable decision from the government. It will help coconut farmers take a turn for the better. The GDP of the state would increase by 17.16 percent if 10 percent of coconut trees in the state are tapped for neera," T.K.Jose, chairman of the Coconut Development Board, told IANS.

There are 29,536 toddy tappers in Kerala. Unlike neera, toddy has an alcohol content of five to eight percent, while "neera is a pure health drink and despite being sweet, it can be consumed even by diabetic patients. Neera has a lot of body building proteins", Jose said.

Kerala has 180 million coconut trees and 93 of the 94 coconut-growing countries in the world make neera.

Jose has a plan where coconut farmers can mint money if the state government classifies neera as a health drink.

"Coconut farmers earn just Rs.300 each year from one coconut tree by selling coconuts. By producing neera, the farmers can earn Rs.3,600 each year from just one tree," Jose said.

From one bunch of coconuts, the daily production of neera would range from one litre to 4.5 litres. A coconut tree grows about three bunches of coconuts every year.

In Thailand, a 330-ml can of neera is sold for the equivalent of Rs.160 and in Karnataka, one litre is sold for Rs.150.

"We have worked out a model where around 3,000 cooperative societies will operate at the grassroots level and 110 federations and 10 companies will function at the district level. Collection of coconuts will be at the grassroots level. Neera will be packed at a modern plant," Jose added.

Fifty percent of the earnings will go to the farmer, 25 per cent to the neera technician (the tapper) and the rest towards marketing expenses.

"A hundred thousand new jobs would be created for neera technicians. One technician can tap around 20 trees a day. His income would be more than Rs.1,000 a month," Jose said.

A decision on neera is expected next week by the Oommen Chandy government, which celebrates its second anniversary May 18. - IANS