Agri Business

Rubber growers’ plea to parliamentary panel

Kochi | Updated on January 09, 2020 Published on January 09, 2020

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Raising concern on the present state of affairs in the rubber sector, Santhosh Kumar, Executive Director, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, said before the visiting Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce that the area under tapping has dropped by 30 per cent over the last 10 years, impacting both production and productivity. Imports, meanwhile, increased 750 per cent in the last decade, he said.

Representing the Association of Planters of Kerala, Kumar called for necessary interventions such as import restrictions or safeguards to ensure a remunerative price for growers and preventing any further damage to production.

Prices have remained below production costs from 2013-14 and the Rubber Board has estimated the average cost of production at around ₹171 per kg. Unless the prices move above this figure, considerable area may remain untapped leading to lower production. The prices are dropping inspite of increasing consumption fuelled by higher imports, he said.

‘Grow in India’

It is high time the country encouraged domestic rubber growers by cutting down imports and kickstart a ‘Grow in India’ campaign on the lines of Make in India, Kumar said.

According to him, rubber has been classified as industrial crop under WTO, enabling minimal protection unlike other crops such as cotton and jute. This wrong classification entails the maximum bound duty of 25 per cent, while agricultural crops have no such limitations. Unless these tariff lines are renegotiated and rubber moved to a list of agricultural crops like other plantation crops, the crop will suffer and so will the 1.3 million growers associated with its production, he said.

Various treaties have also led to an influx of natural rubber products from SE Asian economies that do not have a consuming economy like India. The FTA’s signed with these countries had led not only to the import of natural rubber but finished goods killing the domestic industry.

Rubber Board

He also emphasised the need to strengthen the Rubber Board by requesting the panel to make suitable allocations for research and extension purposes. The Board has been suffering due to drastic cuts in the allocation of funds and the planting subsidy arrears have accumulated over ₹100 crore, which had been suspended for the last 3 years.

Santosh Kumar later told BusinessLine that the panel has asked several queries related to the dropping of natural rubber production in the country, declining prices, measures to improve production and above all, the rising imports. “we have made it clear that unless prices improve, the production will never go up. this will result in more imports because rubber is a strategic raw material,” he said.

The Swaminathan Commission had recommended 150 per cent of the cost of production as MSP, in which case prices should have been ₹256 per kg while growers get ₹130 today. “When agricultural commodities are provided with a price support, why not a strategic crop such as rubber, which is so vital for the country’s industrial growth,” said Ajith BK, Secretary, APK.

Published on January 09, 2020
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