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Andhra Pradesh - Visakhapatnam Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Neera comes to rescue of toddy-tappers

Sumit Bhattacharjee

Khadi, village industries panel promoting it as health drink


  • Tappers are engaged only for five months
  • There are area restrictions on them
  • Mushrooming of IMFL shops affecting them
  • Using scientific methods neera can be stored for six months
  • Lack of initiative from the Government and absence of marketing network are other problems

    VISAKHAPATNAM: The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is promoting `neera', extract from palmyrah trees, as a health drink, so as to uplift the depressed toddy-tappers economically.

    The problems of toddy-tappers in north coastal Andhra are three-fold. One is that tapping is seasonal that keeps them engaged only for five months; the second is the area restrictions imposed by the Government, whereby they are allowed to sell toddy within a limited radius of the extract point; and the third is the mushrooming of IMFL shops in every nook and corner, including villages.

    According to the KVIC Director, K. Krishnaswamy, if an initiative could be worked out to market neera as an alternative soft drink, the toddy tappers could see the light of the day. "Fermented neera is toddy, which is facing stiff competition from IMFL (Indian make foreign liquor),'' he explained.

    If neera could be filtered properly using a simple scientific method and if some preservatives added as prescribed by the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory, immediately after extraction, neera could be bottled or canned and stored for six months, he said.

    ``Chilled neera is a very nutritious drink. It contains a number of minerals and salts; acids like ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid and riboflavin; and also proteins and vitamin C. It has less calorific value, apart from being sweet and delicious. It has been medically proved that neera is better than mineral water.''

    Economics

    Mr. Krishnaswamy said that the economics of neera would be good for both tree growers and tappers, if planned and executed properly.

    "One palmyrah tree yields four litres of neera a day; so the extract from a hundred trees would come to 400 litres. The same could be sold at the rate of Rs.10 a litre, amounting to Rs.6 lakhs for a season of five months for the growers. At the same time one tapper could climb 30 trees on an average in a day and his rate is fixed at Rs.3 per litre, which would amount to a daily nettting of Rs.360.''

    Where then is the problem?

    ``The problem is lack of initiative both from the Government and the private growers and the non-existence of a proper marketing network. While such networking institutions are operating in Maharashtra, Orissa and Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh lags behind, thanks to the liquor lobby,'' he replied.

    If bottling neera was a problem, initiative could be taken to encourage farmers and tappers for bulk extracts for converting them into palm sugar.

    The Central Palmgur and Palm Products of Chennai and the Palm Sugar Federation of Niddavole specialised in manufacturing palm sugar, ''which has a good export potential if tapped properly''.

    If the extract of neera was limited to five months in a year, KVIC got a programme in collaboration with the District Rural Development Agency to train people in fancy articles from palm leaves and that could act as an alternative source of income for the rest of the year.

    ``The programme has been very successful in Tamil Nadu where the toddy tappers have tied up with self-help groups for manufacturing gift items like pen-sets, fancy shopping bags and jewellery boxes. It could be an eco-friendly substitute to plastic products. We can take care of the training part, but it is for the Government to implement such schemes.''

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