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Tuesday, Aug 17, 2004

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Rubber imports up 65 pc in first quarter

Vipin V. Nair

Kochi , Aug. 16

NATURAL rubber imports into India during the first quarter of the current fiscal rose by 65 per cent over the same period last year as tyre manufacturers increased imports in the face of soaring prices and shortage of supply in the domestic market.

During the April-June period, imports of rubber stood at 18,899 tonnes as compared with 11,429 tonnes in the corresponding period, Rubber Board sources said.

Though production of natural rubber during the period was marginally higher over the same quarter last year, rubber consumption was up by five per cent and exports by 13 per cent during the quarter.

According to an official with a leading tyre manufacturer, the industry could not have done without increasing imports during the quarter since there was severe shortage of rubber in the domestic market.

"We had anticipated the situation during the monsoon and had made arrangements to import more during this period," he said. From mid-May onwards, heavy rains in Kerala, which accounts for over 90 per cent of India's natural rubber production, had affected tapping.

Consequently, in the domestic market, the stocks shrunk to its nine-year low at about 66,000 tonnes and prices surged. In June, the highest imports in the quarter was reported at 7,826 tonnes.

Domestic price was ruling between Rs 60 and Rs 66.50 a kg for the RSS 4 grade while international price was quoting between Rs 61 and Rs 63 for the matching RSS 3 grade during June.

Tyre manufacturers, who consume 52 per cent of the rubber produced in the country, are planning to import 60,000 tonnes in the current fiscal, up by 39 per cent over the last year's imports.

The Rubber Board sources said despite rains affecting tapping, rubber production in the quarter was marginally up at 1.44 lakh tonnes as compared with 1.42 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period.

Consumption during the quarter too was higher by 5.36 per cent at 1.81 lakh tonnes, vis--vis 1.72 lakh tonnes a year ago. Exports were up by 13.23 per cent at 4,894 tonnes as against 4,322 tonnes in the same period last year.

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