The All India Rubber Industries’ Association (AIRIA) has emphasised the need for providing training and skill development to farmers and tappers in the NE region to increase natural rubber production.

Lack of region-specific rubber development strategies with appropriate linkages, supported by institutional systems, undermines the sustainable growth of the rubber sector in the NE region, said Ramesh Kejriwal, President, AIRIA.

Policies and programmes should be reinvented under the innovation framework to reap the advantages emanating from the integration of the region with the global market, and facilitate diversification and sustainable growth of the sector, he said.

The development of the rubber sector in the NE in recent decades was the outcome of the government’s import substitution initiatives. Hence, there is need to provide more training and skill development that would form a major component for new NR cultivation in NE States, he said.

Also read: ‘Exit interview’. Natural rubber farming needs to spread far and wide beyond Kerala: Rubber Board Chief

Output at 10-year high

After a gap of 10 years, he said natural rubber production in the country had surpassed 800,000 tonnes in FY23 to touch 839,000 tonnes, just short of the revised target of 840,000 tonnes against 775,000 tonnes in the previous year. 

However, consumption has also grown 9 per cent to 13.5 lakh tonnes and was moving at a faster pace than production, especially as the risk of Covid wanes. According to prevailing trends, NR production in India will not be sufficient to meet the consumer industry’s demand, as consumption is expected to reach 1500,000 tonnes by 2025-26, he said.

The Kerala Government has announced a rubber subsidy of Rs 600 crore, which is expected to give a much-needed impetus to the rubber sector. Separate model projects have to be prepared in Tripura for funding under different self-employment programmes, and providing subsidy through the State Incentive Scheme under the Tripura Industries Investment Promotion Incentive scheme. Likewise, the Central budget for the rubber sector would focus on special allocation for new plantation and replanting.

To a question on the rising adoption of synthetic rubber, he said SR serves as a substitute for NR in many cases, especially when improved material properties are required. But NR is better than SR, with higher tensile strength, tear resistance and low odour.