In order to shore up more financial resources for the state, the Karnataka government is now banking on Neera, a sweet fluid extracted from coconut trees.
Coconut tree cultivation is spread across a total of 4.97 hectares of land in the state and this can fetch a tidy income of Rs 4,500 crore, according to the state government, a report by TOI states.
The state government has made amendments to the excise rules to allow neera to be marketed as a natural and nutritional drink. The government has sent this proposal to the governor and is awaiting his assent, the report says.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah, after reviewing the state’s finances last week, found that it had taken a beating due to demonetization. Many alternatives were listed out to the CM to overcome the shortage of finances and marketing neera was one of them, the report adds.
Coconut growers across the state and elected representative of areas where it is cultivated, have campaigned for permission to tap neera since a long time now. However, a bureaucratic muddle had put the proposal on the backburner as fear of neera being fermented to toddy has been a serious concern, the report states.
With the recent decrease in coconut prices and farmers opting to cultivate other cash crops, the state government had floated the proposal of marketing neera. Currently, neera is being tapped and marketed by Kerala, the largest coconut-growing area in India, the report says.
According to the Horticulture Department, the Karnataka government intends to adopt the Kerala model. If 25% of coconut spathe is discarded from one coconut tree for making neera, farmers can earn an additional income of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per tree, without affecting the yield and earn around Rs 15,000 per month. This has the potential of changing the agricultural economy in coconut cultivation, the report said.
Neera can be used as an ingredient in manufacturing jaggery, sugar, honey, chocolate, cake and cookies apart from being sold as a natural drink. It is reported to be good for treating urinary problems and diabetes, according to data by the Coconut Development Board.
The government plans to create a brand and popularize neera in districts, as neera is popular in coastal regions, the TOI report said.