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Kozhikode: Coconut jaggery, ingredient of food and Ayurvedic medicines and, unfortunately, mostly a sweet memory now, may regain its position on the table if an attempt being made by a Vadakara-based trust tastes success.
The Mahatma Desa Seva Trust has launched a coconut-jaggery promotional programme as part of its larger objective to popularise a nature-friendly lifestyle and to promote production of non-toxic food and low-cost treatment methods to keep people healthy, R. Srinivasan, chairman of the trust, told The Hindu on Thursday.
The trust recently launched coconut jaggery, made from “neera” tapped from the palms, under the brand name “Keramrutam” with the help of a handful of persons who have not forgotten the art of making the delicacy.
Ramesh Paleri, president of Uralungal Labour Contract-cum-Cooperative Society, who inaugurated its sale at the trust's outlet in Vadakara, said coconut jaggery had been a popular product that sustained a flourishing cottage industry in the State. In his childhood, puffed rice crushed with coconut jaggery had been on the daily menu of many families.
Mr. Srinivasan said the trust had plans to step up its production and sale.
At the function, Kencheri Narayanan, one of the few remaining specialists in its preparation, was honoured with a shawl by P.P. Damodaran, president of Keramrutam. V.R. Krishnan, managing director, Rani Foods, was presented coconut jaggery to signal its launch.
A large number of coconut climbers who were engaged in tapping “neera” to make jaggery have shifted to toddy-tapping as a means of livelihood after the Abkari Act came into force since the latter is more remunerative. The distribution of sugar at a low price through ration outlets also hastened the decline in profitability of the coconut jaggery business. Sugar fast emerged as a cheaper substitute as a sweetener. Demand for coconut jaggery for Ayurveda preparations also declined.
“But coconut jaggery has medicinal properties which sugar does not have; it is also easily absorbed by the body … the decline in popularity of coconut jaggery and the rising popularity of sugar is the reason for the increase in diabetes and other health problems,” Mr. Srinivasan said.
Mr. Srinivasan, a social worker and former municipal councillor, hopes that the State government will extend its support to promote production and sale of coconut jaggery just as the Tamil Nadu government has been encouraging palm gur and the Maharashtra government, sugar.
“There is high demand for our coconut jaggery, though it costs about Rs.35 for 100 g because people have become more health-conscious than ever and are looking for food from natural products,” Mr. Srinivasan said.
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