THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For some time now, the state’s traditional toddy sector has been in the dumps. With the “very mild alcoholic beverage” not gaining popularity among tipplers, the government is planning to introduce toddy as a health drink and make it acceptable among public, irrespective of age and gender.
This is one of the initiatives being considered in the proposed Toddy Board’s formation. Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan said efforts will be made to change the public perception of toddy. “It’ll be promoted as a drink which could be consumed by people irrespective of gender and age,” he said.
According to the him, with the formation of the Board, distribution of pure toddy will be ensured in the state. In addition, the value-added products will be made from toddy and promoted, for which legislation will also be carried out.
Demand for toddy has been on the decline. The state came up with a policy decision to sell toddy via hotels with three-star licence and above, but it has not found even a single taker. Fear of adulterated toddy and lukewarm response from patrons make bars prefer liquor to toddy.
"The government is committed to strengthen the toddy sector and protect the interests of coconut farmers and workers who depend on it," said an Excise Department officer.
He added it has also been decided to set up 'toddy parlours' in various tourist destinations. The long-pending demand to produce packaged and branded toddy too is likely to be taken up.
Meanwhile, the Excise Department feels if the toddy sector has to be revived, coconut cultivation will have to be promoted widely. They point out the 'Keragramam' project will have to be implemented on a war footing.
A writ petition filed by the Kerala Toddy Shop Licensee Association in the Supreme Court had stated the alcohol content in toddy is about nine per cent, which is normally present in light beer and much lower than other forms of liquor.
It demanded the exemption of toddy from the court ban on liquor sale within 500 metres of national and state highways. Interestingly, the state took the stance in the court that toddy is "a very mild alcoholic beverage" and "full of vitamins and used in traditional dishes".