Agri Business

‘Stringent measures needed to sustain natural rubber industry’

G Balachandar Mamallapuram | Updated on February 28, 2020 Published on February 28, 2020

(from left) KM Mammen, Chairman, ATMA, with Vinod Simon, Vice-Chairman, IRM 2020 Organising Committee, and Sawar Dhanania, Chairman, Rubber Board, in Mamallapuram on Friday   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Alternative plantations, rubber clones needed to combat slowdown: KM Mammen

The natural rubber (NR) industry was urged to look at multi-pronged initiatives to address issues related to production, quality and availability.

KM Mammen, Chairman, Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association, and Chairman and Managing Director of MRF Ltd, suggested the creation of a strategic NR reserve, development of alternative rubber-growing regions, new rubber clones and experiments in genetically-modified rubber.

Addressing the inaugural session of the fifth edition of the India Rubber Meet (IRM) here, Mammen said availability of NR emerged as a big challenge as domestic industry produced only half of its demand, resulting in large-scale import of rubber. The two-day event, with the theme Rubber Resurgence Through Innovation, would discuss the challenges facing the sector.

“Thanks to the efforts of the Rubber Board, there has been an improvement in NR production. But, the gap is too wide to bridge within a very short time,” he added.

Mammen pointed out that rising temperatures, drought or heavy rains were affecting rubber yields and causing disease outbreaks in rubber plantations across the world.

Strategic reserve in India

He emphasised the need to explore alternatives in non-traditional regions like North-East India.

“We need to develop new rubber clones which can withstand harsher climate conditions and also continue with experiments of genetically-modified rubber,” he added.

He felt the creation of NR strategic reserve in India — equivalent to at least one month’s consumption — would go a long way in minimising market uncertainties, stabilising price fluctuations and ensuring uninterrupted availability, besides reducing rubber imports significantly during the peak production season.

“It is worth mentioning here that China already maintains a strategic NR reserve,” he said.

The stringent requirements of new age products such as radial tyres demanded improvements in the quality of NR and Mammen said that the quality of NR as a key raw material needed to keep pace with the changing scenario in manufacturing.

The tyre industry is the single largest consumer of NR in the country, accounting for 70-75 per cent share.

Sawar Dhanania, Chairman, Rubber Board, felt the prolonged slump in rubber prices was challenging the sustainability of the rubber cultivation. Other segments of rubber value chain were also beset with challenges arising from global competitiveness, dumping, non-tariff barriers, technological bottlenecks etc.

Slowdown in sector

While stating excessive imports of rubber and major products such as tyres and synthetic rubber was a major concern, he advised the industry to focus on adopting the available state-of-the-art technology and cost measures to compact the slowdown challenges.

KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board, added there was a need to focus on improving the productivity and bringing in cost-cutting were the best efforts to sustain the cultivation in the period of a prolonged slowdown.

Published on February 28, 2020
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