About 1.25 lakh hectare of rubber plantation remain untapped, according to a preliminary assessment study by the Rubber Board.
Hit by the 1,26,000-tonne drop in rubber output over five years, Rubber Board has put together a plan to rope in rubber producing companies to undertake the running of absentee-landlord plantations, harnessing economies of scale. Poor cost-realisation had set several small holding farmers to abandon tapping of rubber trees regularly.
About 1.25 lakh hectare of rubber plantation remain untapped, according to a preliminary assessment study by the Rubber Board. The small growers have limitations to reduce the costs for maintenance, harvesting, processing and marketing of rubber, it noted.
“Only with an increase in domestic rubber production, any reduction in rubber import can be achieved. The plan intends to identify untapped rubber holdings,maintain it and undertake harvesting,” said KN Raghavan, chairman, Rubber Board. He targets 7,50,000 tonne NR (natural rubber) production in the current year.
What set the Board on its toes is that even while the rubber cropping area increased, NR production has fallen. The area under NR rose to 8,22,000 hectare in 2018-2019, compared to 7,78,400 hectare in the previous year, on official records. But the actual NR production in last fiscal was 6,48,000 tonne. In 2013-2014, this was 7,74,000 tonne. Productivity in 2013-14 was as high as 1,629 kg per hectare. During the last fiscal, this was just 1,446 kg per hectare.
The Board has proposed that the company will appoint tappers for harvesting and the income generated from the sale of rubber will be paid to the growers after deducting operational costs. Rubber growers could discuss the terms with the companies for undertaking the maintenance of plants, harvesting of trees and marketing of produce. Besides companies, Rubber Producing Societies (RPS) with infrastructure facilities also can adopt holdings.
“The intervention will make rubber cultivation viable by implementing collective procurement of agricultural inputs, mechanisation, effective utilisation of labour, maintenance of quality of produce and increasing the bargaining capacity for marketing,” said the Board’s note on the adoption of plantations.