Kerala opposition walks out over rubber import


Thiruvananthapuram : Staging a walkout in the assembly, the Left opposition in Kerala Tuesday alleged that the central government’s decision to import rubber was meant to please the tyre lobby at the expense of rubber farmers in the state.

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Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan led all opposition legislators out of the house after failing to get Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to come out with a resolution condemning the centre’s decision.

Seeking leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator Suresh Kurup said the decision to import 40,000 tonnes would deal a big blow to small time rubber farmers in Kerala.

“There are 1.2 million rubber farmers in the state of which 92 percent are small time farmers who own less than two acres. As soon as the decision by the centre came yesterday (Monday), the price of natural rubber in the market in our state fell from Rs.216 to Rs.211,” he said.

The central government will import 40,000 tonnes of natural rubber to tide over production shortfall and has reduced the import duty from 20 percent to 7.5 percent.

“It is surprising that the decision to import was taken without taking into confidence the Rubber Board of India. Who does not know that this is meant just to please the tyre lobby?” said Kurup.

He also said the decision is meant to create a market sensation at a time when the first quarter production of rubber in the country grew by 5.4 percent to touch 1.75 lakh tonnes.

“With the peak rubber production beginning in September, a decision like this now means in the coming months, the price of rubber will be even lower, thereby affecting the economy of the state. This decision has to be condemned,” said Kurup.

Chandy, while expressing concern over the decision, said it was taken to offset the shortage of domestic production of rubber.

“There is a shortfall of 85,000 tonnes and hence 40,000 tonnes have been allowed to be imported, this is by no means going to affect our state badly. Last year, when a similar situation arose, when import was allowed, all that was imported was a mere 3,500 tonnes and after a week, the price of rubber in the Indian market rose,” said Chandy.

“We will immediately convey our fears on this issue to the central government and if the situation is detrimental, we will work out a mechanism to see how we can prevent any drastic fall in prices,” said Chandy.