Thiruvananthapuram, July 17: Kerala government will start manufacturing 'Neera' (soft toddy), a non-alcoholic health drink made from coconut palm.
The decision was taken after a meeting of toddy tappers' organisations with state Excise Minister K Babu here yesterday, an official release here said.
The toddy tappers in the state, numbering around 30,000, had earlier expressed concern at the move expressing the fear that their livelihood would be threatened.
The minister said in the meeting that the toddy tappers would be given preference in tapping coconut trees for the production of 'Neera'. They would also be given membership in the Toddy Tappers Welfare Fund Board. Suitable amendments would be made to the Abkari Act for 'Neera' production, he said, adding that the Taxes Secretary had been authorised to submit recommendations for setting up a Neera-Toddy Board.
In the pilot phase, the project would be implemented in units of 1,500 coconut trees in each district.
In Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts, the project would be implemented in two units each. Allaying fears expressed by coconut growers that non-farmer agencies would be allowed to produce Neera sidelining growers' co-operatives, the minister said only companies and federations affiliated to the Coconut Development Board would be given permission to produce 'Neera.'
Though Neera, which is a juice prior to the fermentation, has no alcohol content in it, the Excise department holds control as it comes under the definition of liquor as per the definition given in the Act.
Karnataka has already begun the commercial extraction of Neera in two districts, while Maharashtra and Goa have already implemented the project.