Mangaluru, July 19, 2017: The Department of Horticulture here has recommended that the government hand over its pilot neera manufacturing and packing unit at Thumbe to a farmer producer organisation (FPO) to launch commercial production of neera and its by-products.
Neera is a sweet sap extracted from the inflorescence of coconut palms. It is a non-alcoholic thirst quencher, high in nutritional value.
The unit, set up in 2011-12, has been lying idle as it is awaiting a machinery upgrade.
The department handed over its operation and maintenance of the unit to Palakkad Coconut Producers’ Company Ltd., an initiative of coconut growers of Kerala, in March 2014, for three years. This term ended in March, 2017.
Yogesh H.R., Deputy Director, Horticulture, Dakshina Kannada, said that the department wrote to the government two months ago that the FPO in Vitla could be granted permission to use the unit to start commercial production. The government is yet to act on this, he told The Hindu.
In addition to this, the department has stated that the unit could also be used to train those interested in tapping neera. Mr. Yogesh said that the department has given Rs. 65 lakh to the Palakkad Society for upgrading the machinery. The society was buying time to install the latest machinery as outdated machines should not be installed. He added that the plan is to use the upgraded technology to manufacture flavoured neera at the unit.
The packaging of the same would be upgraded from plastic sachets to pet bottles.
As the government has passed the neera policy, its rules and regulations are now being formed.
The FPO can avail loans from financial institutions with bank guarantees from the government by presenting its business model that is duly approved by the government. Hence, increasing the funds for the commercial production of neera and its by-products would not pose any problem.
Mr. Yogesh said that the FPO is an important initiative taken by the Union Department of Agriculture and Cooperation for promoting and strengthening member-based institutions of farmers. In its 2013-14 budget, the Union government announced a maximum matching grant of Rs. 10 lakh per registered FPO to enable them to get working capital from financial institutions.
Supply of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and machinery, market linkages, training and networking and financial and technical advice to its member farmers are also among the major activities of FPOs.
Another FPO that was set up in the district is in Karaya in Belthangady taluk.