Continuing rains in Kerala have hit natural rubber production, which fell 5-10 per cent during the September-November period compared to a year ago.

However, the farming community hopes to restore production over the next four months beginning December with the aid of conducive weather and moderate rains in the production centres.

George Valy, president of Indian Rubber Dealers Federation, told businessline that the heavy downpour during September-November disrupted tapping of rubber trees, even those with rain-guard. Though August was a good month, the subsequent months saw production affected by rains.

Prices are hovering at Rs 153-154 for RSS IV grades, and tyre companies are procuring the available material from the domestic market without any price increase. They are depending more on imports as well as production from the North-East, he said.

According to Valy, the prevailing rates for natural rubber in Kerala is unviable for farmers due to the high production cost, while the rates are lower in NE due to low wages and nil land value. There has also been a drop in trading volume by 10-12 per cent. Besides, the market is witnessing a shift from sheet making to latex due to the rising cost and cup lump production. Block rubber production is on the rise in India, thanks to the increasing demand from tyre companies.

Last year, natural rubber production was 8.53 lakh tonnes, and this year it is likely to be 8.5-9 lakh tonnes, depending on weather conditions, he said.  

Delayed tapping

Santosh Kumar, Executive Director, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (RPSG), said rubber growing areas this year witnessed a significant shift in rainfall pattern, with many parts experiencing extended dry conditions in the absence of pre-monsoon showers. This led to delayed resumption of tapping and low crop.

Zero rains in August led to drying up of plants. However, rains revived in September with heavy spells in most rubber growing areas. The early rains disrupted tapping from September to November.

Despite the drop in production, he said, prices have not rebounded, perhaps due to the macro-economic conditions and subdued demand. But the climatic changes and low rubber prices are pushing growers into an unparalleled deep crisis, he added.

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