Commodities

Natural rubber output up a tad despite Covid shutdown

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on June 01, 2021

KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Imports down on reduced domestic consumption

India’s natural rubber production increased a tad during the 2020-21 fiscal despite the shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic but consumption dropped as a result. This also led to lower imports last fiscal.

Despite a trying first quarter in the last fiscal, natural rubber production increased to 7.15 lakh tonnes (lt) compared with 7.12 lt in 2019-20. The rise came after the production in the first quarter dropped by 41,000 tonnes to 82,000 tonnes (1.23 lakh tonnes).

Natural rubber consumption declined to 10.96 lt against 11.34 lt in 2019-20.

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“Though we lost production in the first quarter in 2020-21 due to Covid disruptions, the sector managed to come back in the remaining period,” KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board, said. He cited rising production, higher prices prevailing in the domestic market, more rubber plantations being tapped during the rainy season by “rain guarding” and initiating tapping in plantations lying untapped through “adoption” of such land by the Board.

Tyre sector bounces back

As regards consumption, he told BusinessLine that the tyre sector staged a smart recovery after a near-barren first quarter when activities in the manufacturing sector had come to a virtual standstill due to the nationwide lockdown. The tyre industry was helped in this regard by the restriction imposed by the government on import of tyres from abroad.

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The non-tyre sector, however, witnessed a fall in consumption last fiscal (3.15 lt) compared with the previous year (3.77 lt ), he said.

The net result of increased production and fall in consumption was reduction of rubber imports, which fell from 4.57 lt in 2019-20 to 4.10 lt in 2020-21. Of this, 1.61 lt were imported under Advance Licence Scheme against export commitments.

Emphasising the need to maximise production during 2021-22 so as to minimise imports, Raghavan urged farmers to complete the rain guarding operations before the onset of monsoon so as to conduct tapping from June till November, when the rubber growing areas get rain.

Electronic trading platform

The Board has released subsidies for planting amounting to ₹18 crore during 2020-21 and another ₹15 crore is planned during the first half of 2021-22.

It is also in consultations with entrepreneurs through Kerala Startup Mission to explore possibilities of developing a hand-held device that can detect impurities or foreign matter or sheets of different grade and texture within packed bales of rubber. This would go a long way in alleviating the difficulties faced by consuming industries that have been facing problems on this score.

The electronic trading platform being developed by Rubber Board is nearing completion and a security audit of this platform is expected to start within a month. It will be launched after this audit is completed successfully, he added

The Board is also planning to conduct a “Census” of all rubber plantations across the country to update its data about number of holdings, acreage under plantation, age of rubber trees, system of tapping adopted, etc. This work will commence as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted.

Published on June 01, 2021

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