The country’s production of natural rubber (NR) has shrunk an alarming 33% in January. Rubber Board has confirmed that the production has fallen by 60,000 tonne year-on-year.
Due to low price realisation, vis-a-vis the tappers’ wages, a section of rubber farmers in Kerala had kept away from tapping the rubber trees. According to provisional estimates, production in the first three quarters this year was lower by 17.33 % at 5.17 lakh tonne compared with the previous year.
Meanwhile, the board has said in a statement that the consumption in January had grown by 0.8%. The growth in consumption to 84,000 tonne had sent the tyre manufacturers making more import orders. NR price in the Indian market has been over 40 % higher than Malaysia or Indonesia in January. NR imports in January are up by 11% to 30,441 tonne. India had imported 359,857 tonne of NR from April to December 2014. This was higher than the same period in 2013 by 325,190 tonne.
Farmer outfits like UPASI ( United Planters Association of South India), APK (Association of Planters of Kerala) and IRGA (Indian Rubber Growers Association) have urged for imposing safeguard duties (levies imposed to check a sudden surge in imports) on NR. They have submitted a petition to the Directorate-General of Safeguards.
“There is a clear case for raising the import tariff for NR, if the Centre wants rubber cultivation in the country to stay,” Siby Monipally, general secretary, IRGA, told FE. The commerce ministry has proposed to the finance ministry to increase the duty on natural rubber from the current 20% to 30%.
To factor in the interests of all stakeholders, the government has been readying a National Policy for the rubber sector. An expert committee, constituted to evolve a suitable regime for production, consumption, manufacture and imports of rubber in the short term and long term, has been working on this theme.