Monitoring must to keep neera tapping healthy

Monitoring must to keep neera tapping healthy

The State government’s ambitious project to allow tapping of neera, sweet sap from coconut trees, as announced in the budget has brought cheers to coconut growers.
Though farmer leaders have welcomed the move, they fear lethal consequence if the proposal is not regulated by way of close monitoring of demand and supply of neera as a nutritious soft drink. The farmer leaders have decided to demand setting up of Neera Board in this view.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday announced that amendments will be made to Excise Act to permit members of coconut growers federation to harvest neera. The tapping will be made in limited quantities from the coconut trees. “It will help increase the income of the coconut growers significantly,” chief minister said.

A senior official said that the amendment to Karnataka Excise Act will remove the ‘neera’ clause, which is presently classified as juice drawn from “excise trees” such as gulmohar, coconut, palm, palmyra, date, bagani or doddasal. The government’s move will allow coconut growers’ societies to commercially tap, process and sell the coconut palm drink.
“A similar scheme was mooted when coconut plantation was ravaged by pests like mites (nusi) and stem bleeding diseases. In order to revive the coconut industry and to help the farmers, the scheme was mooted. However, it was hit by reports about rampant adulteration to meet the growing demand,” a farmer leader said.

Even Siddaramaiah government had announced the same proposal during the 2013-14 budget, however, the scheme was not cleared. Farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekhar said that neera production will benefit 13 districts in the State provided the scheme was systematically implemented. “The scheme had the problem in connection with the provisions in the Excise Act. Now the government has announced to clear it. It is not only about tapping neera but also processing byproducts like palm syrup, jaggery and sugar. We had requested the government to set up a board to regulate the scheme. We will have to demand this again since it will be dangerous to start the project without a monitoring department,” he said.

The risk is that if not stored under controlled temperature or consumed within a couple of hours, neera turns into toddy on account of fermentation. During 2012-13, it was found that demand for neera was more than the yielding and this has led to instances of adulteration.

An official said, to address this issue the government has decided to issue permits to tap and process neera only to farmers who become members of coconut growers’ societies.

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