New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) on Tuesday rolled out a unique project to produce ‘Neera and Palmgur (jaggery)’ which it expects has a huge potential to create employment in the country. The project was launched at Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra, a state with more than 50 lakh palm trees.
The initiative will provide direct employment to 400 local traditional trappers, the KVIC said. The project aims at promoting ‘Neera’ as a substitute to soft drinks while also creating self-employment for tribals and traditional trappers.
While launching the project, the KVIC distributed tool kits for extraction of Neera and making palmgur to 200 local artisans who were given seven days training. A tool kit worth Rs 15,000 comprises a food grade stainless steel kadhai (cooking utensil), perforated moulds, canteen burners and other equipment like knives, rope and axes for extraction of Neera, the KVIC says.
Neera, extracted from the palm trees before sunrise, is a nutrient-rich health drink consumed in many Indian states. However, due to lack of institutionalized marketing technique, the commercial production and large scale marketing of Neera has not commenced yet. The project has been rolled out at the initiative of MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari who is also exploring the feasibility of engaging some big players of the state to start using Neera as a soft drink to make it commercially viable.
Further, it said, a wide range of products like candies, milk chocolates, palm cola, ice-cream and traditional sweets can be produced from Neera if properly marketed. At present Palmgur Neera worth Rs 500 crore is traded in the country. The turnover is likely to increase manifold with commercial production of Neera.
The KVIC has prepared a detailed project report on production of Neera and Palmgur. It is proposed to start standardizing collection, processing and packing of Neera under controlled conditions so as to prevent fermentation.
“On the lines of coconut water, we are working to promote Neera as a substitute to the soft drinks available in the market. Neera is organic and rich in nutrients and thus a complete health drink. With increasing the production and marketing of Neera, we are trying to establish it as a key vertical of India’s village industry,” KVIC Chairman Vinai Saxena said, while distributing tool kits to the artisans via video conference.
Saxena said the production of Neera has high potential in terms of sale as well as creation of self-employment. “Palm industry can be a major employment generator in India. It is aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call of self-reliance and vocal for local people,” Saxena said. At the same time, Neera has high export potential as it is also consumed in countries like Sri Lanka, Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.
India has an abundance of palm fields in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that can make India a leading producer of Neera globally.