There are over one million rubber growers in the country
The proposed national policy on rubber should reflect the real concerns of all stakeholders in the sector and protect the livelihoods of rubber growers in the country, urged the United Planters' Association of Southern India (UPASI). If the present price fall continues, a majority of the growers will be forced to quit cultivation, warned the association, an apex body of planters in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The association was responding to the Central government move of setting up a panel to review the crisis in the sector, make recommendations and submit the draft policy within six months. The committee was appointed on June 18 by the Union commerce ministry and is headed by Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, additional secretary (plantations). In a statement issued on June 19, Peter Mathias, president of UPASI, pointed out that there are more than a million natural rubber growers, 6,000 small and medium rubber manufacturing units and a few big tyre manufactures in the country. The sector has been reeling under crisis for the past three years, forcing a large number of rubber growers to abandon cultivation.
Steep price fall
Natural rubber prices in the domestic market that reached a peak of Rs 243 per kg suffered a steep fall to Rs 143.50 in May 2014. If the price fall continues, a majority of the growers will be forced look for other options and abandoning rubber cultivation, said the statement.
The main reason for the domestic price decline is the large-scale import of natural rubber, mainly from Indonesia and Vietnam. The rubber imports from these two countries have gone up by 188 and 224 per cent respectively during 2011-12 to 2013-14. This huge increase in imports led to decline in prices, adversely affecting the sector, especially the rubber growers.
The pattern of imports has undergone significant changes over the years, points out the statement. Earlier, rubber was imported mainly from Thailand, but Indonesia and Vietnam have overtaken Thailand. Besides, there is a shift in the grades of the imported rubber too. Sheet grade rubber has been replaced by technically specified rubber (TSR). This structural change calls for a serious review of the import policies, says the statement. The norms followed in fixing the import quantity under the advance licensing scheme or Duty Exemption Entitlement Certificate (DEEC) should also be scrutinised in detail, demands UPAI. In this context of surging imports, the national policy should seriously address the livelihood concerns of over a million rubber growers and protect them from price fall, urges the statement.
While welcoming the Central government’s decision to hold a comprehensive review of issues related to cultivation, production, processing, sales, prices and availability of rubber, UPASI says that the Rubber Board of India could have been entrusted this responsibility instead of appointing a new committee. The Board, an institution set up by Parliament, is represented by all segments in the sector, the association points out.
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