Natural rubber output rises 9.4% to 712,000 tonnes


Agartala, May 30 Amidst concerns over economy and growth, natural rubber production in India increased 9.4 per cent to 712,000 tonnes during 2019-20, crossing the 700,000 tonnes, first time in five years, according to an official document.

The Rubber Baord has projected 710,000 tonnes natural rubber production in 2020-21, taking into consideration the crop loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The world production is projected to decline 2.2 per cent to 13.43 million tonnes.

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According to the Rubber Board document, increase in production can be attributed to steps and programmes by the board at field levels with the active cooperation of rubber producers' societies.

The overall tapped area increased by 40,000 hectares in 2019-20, while the rain-guarded area was 250,000 hectares, up 40,000 hectare over previous year.

Rubber Board Executive Director K.N. Raghavan, who presented a report at the 180th board meeting conducted through video link from Kottayam (Kerala) on Thursday, said the production had crossed 700,000 tonnes after 2014-15.

Raghavan, a senior Indian Revenue Service officer, said consumption of natural rubber declined from 1.21 million tonnes in 2018-19 to 1.13 million tonnes in 2019-20 and the production-consumption gap reduced to 422,000 tonnes in last fiscal against 561,000 tonnes in 2018-19.

"Production of natural rubber for 2020-21 is projected at 710,000 tonnes taking into consideration the crop loss owing to Covid-19," the report, available with IANS, said.

Import of natural rubber declined 20 per cent in 2019-20 against the previous year and 70 per cent of the import was through duty-paid channel. Export increased from 4,551 tonnes in 2018-19 to 12,194 tonnes in 2019-20.

The International Rubber Study Group has projected the world production at 13.43 million tonnes (2.2 per cent decline) and consumption at 13.13 million tonnes (4.6 per cent fall) in 2020.

Raghavan elaborated upon steps taken by the board to mitigate distress of small growers due to Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. A proposal has been submitted to the Commerce Ministry to protect rubber growers from the price fluctuation through the minimum import price and restriction of imports with minimum price mechanism in the domestic market.

The board also decided to procure sheets on a limited scale through companies promoted by it on payment of advance.

The board sought to promote rain guarding by providing soft credit to small/marginal growers at zero or low interest rate through the village level cooperative banks and the Rubber Board companies. An incubation centre will soon be set up to develop new and innovative processes and products in collaboration with entrepreneurs.

Addressing the meeting, Rubber Board Chairman Sawar Dhanania said the board and other stakeholders should target meeting 75 per cent of the demand through local production.

"All the rubber sector participants should move together and think of ways to tackle the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic," said Dhanania.

The natural rubber is cultivated in 16 states. With over 600,000 hectares, Kerala tops rubber cultivation, followed by Tripura with over 85,038 hectares under plantation. Other major natural rubber producers are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam and other northeastern states.