India announces scheme to boost rubber production


New Delhi : The Indian government has approved Rs.4-billion ($100 million) scheme for re-plantation and fresh raising of rubber plantations in the country to enhance the latex production.

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The Rs.4.13 billion scheme, which was approved by the cabinet last week, would focus on re-plantation and fresh cultivation of rubber in the non-traditional areas, mainly in the northeastern states.

“The cabinet has approved two programmes of the Rubber Board – a Rs.2.4 billion re-plantation programme covering about 41,750 hectares across the country – 90 percent of this is in Kerala – and a Rs.1.73 billion scheme for rubber development in the northeastern region,” Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh told reporters here.

The government wants the rubber cultivation in the northeastern states like Tripura, Assam and Nagaland to go up.

“Agro-climatically, the northeast region is moderately suitable for rubber. An assessment made by the Rubber Board indicates that rubber could be cultivated in about 450,000 hectares, of which only 58,432 hectares are now under cultivation,” Ramesh said.

During the 11th Five Year Plan, beginning this year, the area of rubber cultivation will be increased by 25,000 hectares more.

Pointing out that the boom in the latex prices has discouraged the traditional rubber farmers from going for re-plantation, Ramesh said: “Our biggest challenge is to convince the farmers to re-plant. They should understand that the future of the rubber production would be at a risk.”

The government will give 20 percent subsidy for small farmers in the traditional areas while they will be given 25 percent subsidy in the non-traditional areas.

Growers with larger size holdings will contribute 50 percent of the expenditure and the rest of the expenses could be met through bank loans.

The 10th plan outlay for the rubber farm sector was Rs.4.15 billion and it has been increased in the 11th plan to Rs.5.18 billion.

India has 600,000 hectares of rubber plantation mainly in Kerala. It produces 850,000 tons of rubber annually. The country exports 9 percent of production.

The minister also reiterated that the government did not have any intention to cut the import duty of rubber. “In the country’s trade negotiations with Asean, rubber is in the negative list for discussion on reducing duties, despite severe pressure from Vietnam, Thailand and the tyre industry in the country.”