To support production of natural rubber in the country, the Indian government has increased the allocation under the “sustainable and inclusive development of natural rubber sector” scheme by 23 per cent to ₹708.69 crore for the next two financial years (2024-26), the Commerce Department has said.

There is, however, no consideration for any change in the import duty on rubber, as of now, as the differential between the local and international prices is maintained, a senior official said. “If you see the local price vis-a-vis international price, there has been a differential maintained on account of import duty... So I do not think there is any rethink on reducing import duties as of now,” said Amardeep Singh Bhatia, Additional Secretary, Commerce Department, at a media briefing on the rubber sector scheme on Monday.

Utilising funds

Bhatia was responding to a question if the government had any plans of tinkering with the import duty on natural rubber. While domestic rubber producers are in favour of high import duties, the user industry stakeholders such as tyre manufacturers, want it lowered. Currently, the import duty on natural rubber is 25 per cent or ₹30/kg, whichever is higher.

On the additional funds allocated under the rubber sector development scheme, Bhatia said the funds will be used for supporting the plantation of rubber, generation of planting material, productivity enhancement, formation of rubber producers societies, and rubber research and training.

Planting of rubber will be undertaken on 12,000 hectares in traditional areas during 2024-25 and 2025-26 with an outlay of ₹43.50 crore. For this, the rate of assistance has been increased to ₹40,000 per hectare from the earlier ₹25,000 per hectare, according to Bhatia. This will help to cover the increased cost of production as well as provide additional incentive to growers for planting rubber. 

₹29 cr for research

In non-traditional regions, about 3,752 hectares will be brought under rubber cultivation with an outlay of ₹18.76 crore during the same period. The scheme is implemented through the Rubber Board.

There are over 13 lakh rubber growers in the country and Kerala accounts for a major chunk of the production. Against production of about 8.39 lakh tonnes in 2022-23, consumption during that fiscal was 13.5 lakh tonnes. “The gap is bridged by imports from countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations. Imports are also now taking place from African countries such as Ivory Coast,” the official said.

An outlay of ₹29 crore has been provided for the next two years for rubber research. “This will aim at developing rubber clones suitable for different agro-climatic regions of the country to expand rubber cultivation to new areas,” Bhatia said.