ERODE: The growth of Neera producing farmer companies, which were affected due to several factors, is now seeing a downtrend after the pandemic. While earlier, over 10 farmer producer companies were tapping 2,000 litres across the State, now, it has reduced to 400-500 litres produced by three companies in total.
After the government gave permission to tap Neera, the unfermented sap from coconut flowers, 13 companies had obtained the license to produce the drink in 2018. However, as the shelf life of Neera is only four days and the production of one litre costs up to Rs 100, the market for the drink never picked up.
Joint Secretary of the Consortium of Tamil Nadu Coconut Producer Companies PK Padmanaban said, "During the pandemic, the companies faced severe losses. As the production of Neera cannot be stopped immediately, the companies gradually reduced the production and suffered losses. Now, the companies are unable to recover from the loss and start the production again."
He added that Vinayaka Coconut Producers' Company, which he is part of, reduced the production from 500 litres to 150 litres.
The staff of the companies said Neera is more nutritious than any other health drink sold and advertising the product might help to increase its market.
Sakthivel, a member of a farmers producers’ company, said, "Drinking the coconut sap increases immunity and helps to maintain one’s overall health. It is even safe for diabetic patients too. However, as people started avoiding cold drinks due to Covid-19 and Neera, which has to be stored at four degrees Celsius, has also been affected. Farmer producers' companies are unable to spend to advertise the benefits of the drink." He urged the government to help them advertise the drink to the public.
Meanwhile, many shops are hesitant to buy Neera due to its reduced shelf life.
About the drink’s storage, Padmanaban said, "If there is a way to store Neera for two-three months without any damage to the nutrients and taste, it could revolutionise the sector. Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology in Thanjavur and Central Plantation Crops Research Institute are working on ways to improve its shelf life. However, there is no breakthrough. While there are eight lakh coconut trees, Neera is being produced only in hundreds of them across the State."