KOCHI:It has been over one year since the State Government launched the commercial sale of Neera, the unfermented coconut inflorescence sap.

However, the non-alcoholic drink is yet to ‘tap’ its full potential in the Gods Own Country, due to low production and shortage of tappers. According to officials of the Coconut Development Board (CDB), of the 1700-odd youths who were imparted training on Neera tapping last year, 1,201 have taken up other jobs. Currently, the CDB is increasingly relying on migrant labourers and women for Neera production.   Stung by shortage of tappers, the coconut producer companies (CPCs) under the CDB have been imparting training to youths not only from far-away states like Chhattisgarh and Assam, but also those hailing from Nepal.

“The CDB is also trying to lure women into the vocation by including it in the ‘green collar’ category of the employment guarantee scheme. A total of 28 labourers from Nepal are undergoing an eight-week-long training programme under the Kozhikode CPC. Already, there are 25 tappers from Chhattisgarh working under the Perambra CPC,” said CDB officials. According to statistics available with the CDB, the CPCs under the Board have produced around 11 lakh litres of Neera in the past one year, and earned a total revenue of Rs 10.5 crore. Currently, the CPCs are producing an average of around 34,000 litres of Neera every week from just 3,272 coconut palms. They are also planning to raise the production to one lakh litres within one week, by imparting training to youths from North Indian states,” said  CDB chairman T K Jose.

According to CDB officials, there are 467 registered Coconut Producer Federations in Kerala under 27 Coconut Producer Companies, which currently require at least 2 lakh Neera technicians. If 10 per cent of the palms in the State are used for Neera tapping, it would provide ‘green collar’ jobs to at least 10 lakh persons. On average, one Neera technician earns Rs 30,000/month,” said the officials.

By Dhinesh Kallungal