Agri Business

Lockdown may lead to natural rubber scarcity in post-Covid days

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on April 08, 2020 Published on April 08, 2020

The rubber sector in Kerala has suffered a six per cent drop in production   -  THE HINDU

Growers urge government to allow essential operations in rubber plantations

The easing of curbs for almost all plantation crops in Kerala other than natural rubber has put the sector in doldrums, as it feared that the lockdown may lead to a scarcity of rubber in the post-Covid days.

The natural rubber sector has lost an opportunity of a good crop harvesting in the lockdown period of March and April when the State received good summer showers. The restrictions have led to a situation of an impending rubber shortage in the market, C Sabu, Joint Rubber Production Commissioner, Rubber Board, told BusinessLine.

The discontinuation of tapping was done at a time when the yield was good. The lockdown has also resulted in the delay of the removal of senile plants, forcing growers to postpone their replanting programme. Moreover, the absence of rubber trading has affected cash flow and revenue, especially from the sale of sheets and latex that came to a standstill, he said.

The closing down of Group Processing Centres and Latex Collection Centres has forced farmers to discontinue tapping, as majority them of are depending on GPC’s/LCC’s for crop processing. Many of them are not having infrastructure or labour for sheeting.

Highly placed sources in the sector pointed out that rubber cultivation is essentially an agricultural operation and the denial of permission to carry out farming in rubber plantations was not an appropriate measure when neighbouring States have given their nod.

The sector has suffered a six per cent drop in production and the sources attributed the crop loss to 35,000 tonnes valued at ₹300 crore since the lockdown was in place. The shutdown has severely affected the livelihoods of people, as more than 8 lakh plus workers are directly and indirectly dependent on allied activities.

Shortage of raw material

It is pointed out that the shortage of the raw material is going to have a direct impact on the rubber industry, as natural rubber is a main component in the production of surgical gloves, facemasks, catheters etc.

Growers urged the government to allow all essential operations such as tapping, rain-guarding, weeding, processing and transportation in rubber plantations so that the financial crunch is being faced the sector can be minimised considerably, said Ajith BK, Secretary, Association of Planters of Kerala. It is easy to follow the social distancing norms and personal hygiene in rubber plantations especially when tapping operations was done by a single tapper who is engaged in a block of 400 trees, which is equivalent to nearly a hectare, he said.

To carry out the rain-guarding operations, the requirement of the workforce was 3-4 per hectare. If this activity was not completed by the first week of May, growers would face severe losses as the ensuing monsoon is likely to be severe in the wake of weather forecasts, he added.

Published on April 08, 2020

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