India’s natural rubber production (NR) increased to a nine-year high in the 2021-22 fiscal with a rise in the area under the industrial commodity being supported with higher yield and a new high in the tappable area, said KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board.

Despite the 8% per cent growth last fiscal, imports of NR increased to a three-year high of 5.46 lt as its consumption rose to a record high of 12.38 lt. Last fiscal’s production of 7.75 lakh tonnes. The country’s rubber output declined sharply to below 7 lt after hitting a record high of 9.13 lt in 2012-13. At one point in time, the production dropped below 6 lt before picking up with the output over 7 lt in the last three years.

Imports had hit a record 5.82 lt in 2018-19 following a sharp drop in production in the preceding three fiscals. But the surprising element of the report that Raghavan presented at the 181st Rubber Board meeting was the 12 per cent increase in consumption over 2020-21 lifting the total offtake to a record high.

The area under rubber during FY22 was 826,660 hectares, a record. Though the tappable area under rubber was 7,18,800 ha - another record high - during FY22, only 526,500 ha (73.2 per cent) contributed to the NR production during the year.

The average yield, measured in terms of production per hectare of the tapped area increased to 1,472 kg/ha in 2021-22 from 1,442 kg/ha in the previous year, he said. It was still way lower than the 1,879 kg recorded during 2006-07.

Domestic consumption

On domestic consumption, the Rubber Board Secretary said the auto tyre sector registered 15.9 per cent growth against 3.2 per cent. At the same time, the general rubber goods sector registered 5.6 per cent growth compared to a high negative growth of 16.4 per cent recorded during FY21. Auto-tyre manufacturing sector accounted for 73.1 per cent of the total quantity of NR consumed. The projection of NR production and consumption for 2022-23 is 850,000 tonnes and 1290,000 tonnes, respectively, he said.

The demand-supply gap of NR is the primary reason for the huge imports, he said.

Earlier, Sawar Dhanania, Chairman, Rubber Board emphasised the urgent need to increase the area under natural rubber cultivation to meet the domestic demand and reduce the dependence on imports.   

Natural rubber production in India will not be sufficient to meet the consumer industry’s demands as consumption is expected to touch 15,00,000 tonnes by 2025-26. The production-consumption gap is presently met by imports involving huge foreign exchange outgo, he said

The Centre felt the need to increase natural rubber production by expanding cultivation to non-traditional areas, including North East and traditional regions. The Board has identified a vast stretch of land in North East and West Bengal for rubber cultivation. ‘NE-MITRA’ is a project conceived to develop rubber plantations in those areas with financial support from consuming industries.

Meantime, the efforts for extra income generating activities like beekeeping, intercropping etc., should be continued. He added that promoting the rubber wood industry and carbon trading is the need of the hour to make a green environment and bring sustainability to the rubber sector.