Rubber industry outfit gets Centres mandate to draft national policy

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Nov 13 2013, 10:34am hrs
Even as rubber farmers are clamouring for natural rubber (NR) import ban to clamp brakes on domestic rubber price fall, it is the industry's move for a national rubber policy that has picked up acceleration.

Hardly two months after the All-India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA) proposed the need for a national policy on rubber on the lines of policies for petroleum, textiles and information technology, the Centre has asked the rubber industry outfit to come out with a detailed policy blueprint, acceptable to all stakeholders.

AIRIA has got in touch with the Rubber Board over the exercise to evolve consensus and participation of all stakeholders, including rubber growers. As soon as Rubber Board chairman Sheela Thomas is back from Gautemala, we'll expedite consultations on sharpening the direction of the policy," Niraj Thakkar, president, AIRIA, told FE.

AIRIA had sought pegging up of import duties on finished rubber products to empower about 5,000 rubber SMEs that face the challenge of fast growing cheaper imports.

However, low import duties on finished goods have rendered Indian manufacturing of rubber products by SMEs uncompetitive in several product areas. A worrisome trend is that manufacturers are turning traders of imported goods, leading to loss of jobs and Indian manufacturing is getting seriously compromised.

The rubber industry is counting on the commerce ministry to take a positive decision on pegging up the import duty of finished rubber products.

On Friday, JS Deepak, development commissioner for rubber, commerce ministry, told the rubber industry delegation, headed by Thakkar, to make up a detailed draft that will address the interests of all stakeholders, such as growers, machinery manufacturers, synthetic rubber producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters and educational institutes, according to AIRIA.

At the same time, rubber growers, who are on the warpath over the alarming freefall in the domestic price of rubber, are in no mood to listen to discussions on national policy on rubber.

"We are yet to be consulted on the national policy," Siby J Monipally, general secretary, Indian Rubber Growers Association, said. "Anyway, our immediate priority is to clamp a total ban on NR imports for six months. From a price of R243 per kilo in 2011, the NR price had fallen to R196 per kilo in the second week of August 2013 to R156 per kilo last week, sliding down by 36%. This could be worse as NR production climbs up in the peak season," he added.

The Automotive Tyre Manufacturers' Association has joined hands with AIRIA in the initiative for the national policy on NR. The industry expects the Rubber Board to be vocal about production side issues such as shortage of land for cultivation, labour shortage, skill gap and quality upgradation.

"There is no question of ignoring the growers' stakes in policy formulation," Thakkar said. "What we are planning in the detailed draft policy is to cover market efficiency for the entire supply chain of rubber, not just that of the industry. We envisage discussing inputs from all stakeholders in the backdrop of existing policies affecting the sector," he added.

If there is early consensus and smooth participation in the discussions, the detailed draft is likely to be tabled before the commerce ministry in a couple of weeks.