Mandya: ‘Neera’ is a highly nutritious health drink gaining popularity all over the world. It is another gift from the coconut tree. However, unlike toddy, Neera has amazing health benefits and no alcohol content.
The State Government, realising the health benefits of this drink, has issued a final gazette notification on Neera policy. The coconut growers of the district are eager to tap the drink after the announcement of the policy.
A farmer leader S. N. Siddegowda has jumped into the bandwagon and opened Neera Juice Parlour on Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway near Tubinakere village in Mandya District, which has become a hit with the travellers. They are gulping more than 60 litres of neera every day. Each glass of the energy drink costs Rs.15. The farmers who extract neera before sunrise supply it to Siddegowda.
Why do travellers throng Neera Parlour? It is because of Siddegowda’s business acumen. He has displayed a flex board highlighting the health benefits of the drink and its nutritional content. More importantly, to add authenticity to the claim, he has also displayed a certificate from Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), which says neera is not an alcoholic drink, but a nutritional one.
Siddegowda has taken 40 coconut trees on contract at Tubinakere and taps around 100 litres every day. Some of the customers visit the coconut farm directly for neera and the demand picks up during weekends.
According to Siddegowda, the 18-year struggle of the farmers has yielded results with the Government amending the Excise Act and approving tapping of neera. “Tapping neera is the only way to bail out farmers in distress and to protect coconut trees,” he said.
Several products can be made from neera like jaggery, concentrate syrup, sweeteners, chocolate, ice-cream and peda. One kg of jaggery can be produced from seven litres of neera. Campco, a Mangaluru-based Cooperative is ready to procure neera jaggery, which is sold at Rs.300 a kg, he said.
Karnataka Government should purchase neera directly from the farmers like in Kerala where its government procures neera from the coconut growers, said Siddegowda.
Health benefits: A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, shows that neera can help cure liver disease. The study proves that neera is particularly useful in treating liver diseases following consumption of alcohol.
According to health experts, neera is safe and perhaps the best health drink for persons suffering from diabetes. The use of neera and its by-products give the same sweetness without causing spikes in blood sugar level compared to the traditional sweetening agents.