Besides Kerala, Tripura and Assam are the top rubber growers, accounting for 24% of the country’s overall rubber production. But, robust growth in the Northeast has not been enough to uplift the total rubber output.
Rubber cultivation is steadily fanning out in the Northeast, but this has failed to check the country’s falling natural rubber (NR) output. From 9 lakh tonne in 2008-2009, the production has shrunk by nearly one-third to 6.42 lakh tonne in 2018-19.
Besides Kerala, Tripura and Assam are the top rubber growers, accounting for 24% of the country’s overall rubber production. But, robust growth in the Northeast has not been enough to uplift the total rubber output. The fall in production is 7.5% in 2019, revealed the Rubber Board’s latest statistics.
The board, however, may draw some solace from this year’s NR output, which was 42,000 tonne more than what the board had forecast for 2018-2019. After the humongous Kerala floods in August 2018, the board had revised its production target of 7 lakh tonne, terming it over-ambitious, and rolled it up to 6 lakh tonne.
“Fortunately, in the December to March season, the tapping had doubled up, whipping up the latex yield by 42,000 tonne,” Sibi Monippilly, general secretary of Indian Rubber Growers Association, told FE. Feeble price realisation had forced growers in Kerala to ease off tapping in the past few years.
Following domestic shortage, tyre firms have been importing NR from Thailand and Malaysia, often at discounts. NR imports in 2019 have ballooned 24% over the imports in the previous year, crossing 5.82 lakh tonne.
“It’s scary that domestic production meets only 52% of the consumption. Policymakers need to sit up and take take cognizance that import dependency on rubber has spiralled by 30% over the last year,” says Rajiv Budhraja, Director General, Automative Tyre Manufacturers Association.
For rubber growers, a thin silver lining in the cloud is that the price of RSS-4, the premium grade, has recovered by `10 per kg in a year, and is about to touch Rs 129 per kg this week.