Govt Flayed over Delaying Funds for Neera Production
By Express News Service | Published: 16th September 2014 06:04 AM |
KOLLAM: The launch of a bottled neera product in a private hotel here on Monday was also an occasion to criticise the government for delay in disbursing grants.
Neera is a non-alcoholic health drink tapped from coconut palms.
Shajahan Kanjiravilayil, chairman of Kaipuzha Coconut Producers’ Company Ltd (KCPCL), which launched the bottled neera, who is also the general secretary of Kerala State Karshaka Congress, accused the State Government of not keeping its word on promised financial aid.
“Though a grant of Rs 15 crore was sanctioned in the budget and later CM Oommen Chandy himself assured of its disbursal, we have not got any money yet,” he said.
Shajahan also accused that some vested interests were trying to subvert the funds. “These people now realise that neera can actually be a successful business model and want to use the funds for their ventures. But it is not just funds, but also a lot of dedication that helped us launch the product today,” he said.
The budget allocation for 2013-14, carried over to 2014-15, was supposed to be distributed among the 11 coconut farmer producer companies for capital formation.Shajahan said that during the recent launch of neera in Bangalore, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar had said that the Centre would bear 25 per cent of the cost and the State Governments had to bear the 25 per cent of the capital.
He claimed that his company was the first to launch the product in the market though there were 10 other neera producing companies in the state. He said neera would revolutionise coconut farming in the state.
The extraction of neera, from the inflorescence of coconut palm, can be done without affecting coconut production and the farmers can earn up to Rs 2,000 from a tree, he said.
At present, the company markets the neera tapped by the SCMS Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research and Development, Ernakulam.Shajahan said the company’s own production would start by the end of Oct. The company, formed as an initiative of farmers in the district, is setting up a plant at an estimated cost of Rs 20 crore. It is expected to start trial run by the first week of October and hit the market by month-end.
Horticorp chairman Lal Varghese Kalpakavadi received the bottled neera from SCMS Institute director C Mohankumar. The company has adopted the technology developed by the team led by Mohan Kumar.
Lal Varghese Kalpakavadi blamed the Excise Department for inordinate delay in the initial days when the neera plants were proposed.Mohankumar said that the technology used in the production was US-patented for its ability to keep neera at room temperature for 90 days without affecting its quality.
He said the term used by Excise Dept for describing neera - sweet toddy - was a misnomer. “I would like to call it a health drink or a sports drink or a post-operation drink. A 200-ml bottle contains 150 calories, minerals such as zinc, potassium and other vitamins. Though it is sweet, the glyceme level is below 50 and that is a good news for diabetes patients,” Mohankumar said.
Along with neera, KCPCL’s plant in Mynagappally will produce packed tender coconut water, cream from kernel, kernel powder, edible oil, hair tonic, biscuit, chocolate, jam and ice cream, produced from coconut.
The plant will process 10,000 litres of neera a day at the initial stage from its 1.5 acres of land.
Eight master technicians, who were trained at the Coconut Development Board Institute of Technology in Aluva, will train the company’s technicians.
Shajahan said that he was getting request from across the state to train people and he would be happy to do so.
The government has in principle given consent to tap 1,500 coconut palms for the company.
Minister for Fisheries, Ports and Excise K Babu had laid the stone for the neera producing plant in Mynagappally on May 19.