Persistent demand for tapping neera drink from coconut trees by the farmers finally fetched the results. The State Government issued GO No. 41 on December 21 last year in this regard.
Following this, the district administration has issued licences for tapping neera from coconut trees, and packing and marketing through the Department of Agriculture Marketing to three Agriculture Producers Companies– Anamalai Coconut Farmers Producers Company, Vinayaka Farmers Producers Company and Coimbatore Coconut Farmers Producers Company in the presence of Deputy Commissioner of Excise Department M. Balachandar and Deputy Director of Agriculture Marketing M.R. Palanisamy, at the Collectorate on Thursday. Coconut is being cultivated at an area of 86,800 ha in the district.
Collector T.N. Hariharan issued applications for procuring licences to the companies and also received filled-in applications. The companies were also issued licences in the evening. Mr. Hariharan introduced the neera drink produced under the brand name Foothill Farmers by the Anamalai Coconut Farmers Producers Company at the function.
Speaking to reporters, M. Dhanapal, Director of the Anamalai Coconut Farmers Producers Company, told The Hindu that the company has commissioned a chilling and packaging unit for neera. The production capacity of the plant per day is 1000 litres. Initially, the neera drink would be packed in 200 ml disposable bottles and would be marketed at a rate of Rs. 35.
The initiative will improve the income of the farmers in addition to the income they are generating from coconut and other by-products.
On an average 2.5 litres of neera drink can be tapped from one coconut tree. Neera is different from toddy and palmyra drink (padaneer).
The neera drink will be tapped directly into a chiller box with below 4 degree Celsius. The temperature would be maintained till neera drink is packed and sold to the end users. Otherwise, it will get fermented and turn into toddy.
A farmers would get an income of Rs. 10,500 per tree per year in addition to the average income they are generating from coconut, tender coconut and other by-products from a healthy tree.
Mr. Palanisamy said that 40 farmers have been selected to undergo a technical training to tap neera from coconut tree at the National Horticulture Research Station at Kasaragod in Kerala from February 19 to 23. Once the regular production begins, value-added by-products from neera such as Neera Sugar, Neera Honey and Neera snacks could be produced and exported globally, he added.
Ahead of this, a meeting of the representatives from the seven Coconut Farmers Producers Companies was held at the Collectorate on February 2. Sale of neera products would be allowed in uzhavar santhais, Collectorate and other public places, the official said.