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Kerala wants coconut to steal soft drinks fizz

With Coke and Pepsi suffering a crisis of credibility, Kerala's MLAs plan to give coconut water a push to steal the fizz from the colas.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 09, 2003 12:31 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

With soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi suffering a crisis of credibility, Kerala's legislators are planning to give tender coconut water a push to steal the fizz from the colas.

A popular natural drink in Kerala, coconut water has, however, failed to make inroads in the packaged beverage market.

"With the controversy over the Coca-Cola sludge pollution and reports from Delhi over the presence of toxic elements, we should see that we promote tender coconut in Kerala. This is the best time," senior Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said, adding that he would try to raise the matter in the assembly.

This week, while the Kerala State Pollution Control Board endorsed a BBC Radio allegation that sludge from a Coca-Cola plant in this state contained hazardous elements including cadmium, a leading environmental group in New Delhi claimed that Coke and Pepsi beverages had alarmingly high levels of pesticide residues.

Kerala has for a while been trying to promote tender coconut water. The previous EK Nayanar government had made a concerted bid but met with little success.

"One reason for the failure is practical problems associated with marketing coconut water. It is the responsibility of the government to make suitable arrangements. In the Philippines, this is very popular because the Coconut Growers' Bank does all the promotion and marketing," said Prayar Gopalakrishnan, a legislator and former chairman of the Kerala State Milk Marketing Association.

Even the launch of Kerasudha, a natural soft drink produced from tender coconut, has not helped much. As of now, private company Miracle Food Processors in Malappuram district is the only one producing concentrate of tender coconut and exporting it to the Gulf countries.

"We have installed vending machines that dispense the drink, including in Makkah and Madina," said PP Ahmed Kutty, managing director of Miracle.

But legislator Mercy Ravi, wife of Congress leader Vayalar Ravi, felt it would be best to make the drink available in the fresh, raw form.

"Any addition of preservative to increase the shelf life could lead to problems like what Coke and Pepsi are facing. As a test case, it would be nice if the Speaker allows the opening of a counter of tender coconut in the assembly. Once this is done, we could open counters at international airports, railway stations and even bus stands," she suggested.

"This is the best time to promote our own tender coconut and I would try to convince the agriculture minister (KR Gowriamma) to do something because not only would we provide a safe drink but also bring cheer to thousands of coconut farmers who are reeling under low prices," said legislator Umesh Chaliyil.

First Published: Aug 08, 2003 00:00 IST