The taskforce on the rubber sector constituted by the Central Government has recommended that natural rubber be treated as an agricultural product, the State government informed the Kerala High Court.

The taskforce also recommended that the Union Ministry of Agriculture should examine the possibility of including the natural rubber under the MSP scheme.

These submissions were made in a statement filed in response to a writ petition seeking a directive to fix a minimum support price for natural rubber.

The petition also sought to remove natural rubber from the list of industrial crops and classify it as agricultural products such as cotton, jute, tobacco, etc. There had been crash in the prices of rubber in the last few years. This had made the production of rubber unviable and uneconomic.

Fixing an MSP

The State Government said that the Rubber Act did not confer any obligation on the State to forward its recommendation to the Centre for arriving at the correct cost of production or fixing MSP for crops at 50 per cent over the cost of production. It was the prerogative of the Centre to fix MSP for the notified crops.

However, the State government was implementing the Rubber Production Incentive Scheme from the year 2015 onwards. Through this scheme, the small and medium natural rubber formers were guaranteed a minimum of ₹50 per kg for natural rubber.

The State government has requested the Centre to provide financial support to increase the incentive from ₹150 to ₹200 per kg and take steps to include it in the proposed Livelihood Security Box and re-categorise natural rubber as an agricultural commodity in the various trade agreements.

The petition was filed by KA Joseph, President of the Indian Rubber Dealers Federation, and others. According to petitioners, the growers had stopped tapping because of declining prices caused by massive imports and increase in the cost of production. The dealers had also incurred heavy losses. In fact, the growers had long been demanding minimum support prices for rubber.

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