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India's Rubber Production Reaches Decade-High of 800,000 Tonnes

India’s rubber production exceeds 800,000 tonnes for the first time in a decade, helped by output from NE states.

Shivam Dwivedi
India's Rubber Production Reaches Decade-High of 800,000 Tonnes
India's Rubber Production Reaches Decade-High of 800,000 Tonnes

In the past year, production reached 839,000 tonnes, which was slightly below the adjusted goal of 840,000 tonnes. However, this still represented an 8.3% increase from the previous year's output of 775,000 tonnes. Looking ahead to the current year, production has risen by 7% compared to the previous year.

The last time output surpassed 800,000 tonnes was in 2012-13, when it reached 913,700 tonnes. Following that year, output fluctuated between 600,000 and 800,000 tonnes, with the exception of 2015-16, when it fell to a low of 562,000 tonnes. Consumption increased by 9% year on year to 1.35 million tonnes. Though consumption growth has slowed from 13% in 2021-22, it is still outpacing production, especially since the Covid-19 threats have subsided.

On the surface, increased output appears to have lessened the year's reliance on imports. Rubber imports fell 3% in 2021-22, from 546,369 tonnes to 530,000 tonnes. Rubber Board chairman Sawar Dhananiya credited the increase in output to better production in Kerala, the country's largest rubber-producing state, as well as increased yield from northeastern states.

"In Kerala, the board was able to resume tapping in several thousand hectares of untapped estates, which contributed to increased production. The governments of Tripura and Assam have shown considerable interest in the northeastern region by giving the necessary facilities to improve output,'' he said. The northeastern states, particularly Tripura and Assam, now contribute for more over 16% of total production, up from 10% a few years ago. Kerala's stake has dropped from over 90 percent to 78 percent. The non-traditional regions of Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra account for 6% of overall output.

"Rubber traders are wary of Kerala's increased yield. The current increase in output is due to higher output in northeastern states rather than Kerala. Kerala's tapping has been curtailed due to low pricing and high production expenses. Many are active as a result of the state government's price stabilization scheme,'' said N Radhakrishnan, a prominent rubber dealer in Kerala.

The Rubber Board, in collaboration with major tyre firms, is implementing the NE Mitra project in northeastern states, which envisions new rubber cultivation on 200,000 hectares over five years. Cultivation on approximately 3,800 hectares began last year under the plan, which began in 2021.

Climate change has also had an impact on Kerala's production. "Defoliation of rubber trees in Central Kerala had an impact on output. The plantations in north Kerala produced more,'' said Santhosh Kumar, vice president of rubber at Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. Higher rubber production costs in Kerala were recently in the headlines after a Catholic church bishop stated that the Bharatiya Janata Party will get an MP from Kerala if the price of rubber is raised to Rs 300 per kilogramme.

Sheet-grade rubber, which is used in tyre manufacturing, costs Rs 154 per kg. The state government's price stabilization scheme guarantees small farmers a price of Rs 170 per kg by subsidizing the difference. The state's rubber community agrees with the bishop's declaration that present price levels are insufficient for growers because costs have risen dramatically. Kerala has the highest earnings in the country for rubber farmers.

"Aside from wages, the cost of fertilizer, rain guarding, and making sheets has all increased. If the grower taps twice or more each week, the cost per kilogramme might be around Rs 250. If he taps only once a week, it can be reduced to roughly Rs 200 per kg,'' said Radhakrishnan, noting that manufacturing costs are far cheaper in northeastern areas.

The rubber farmers are hoping for some kind of inducement from the Centre. "In the budget, the Centre helped the industry by increasing the import duty on compound rubber from 10% to 25%, the same as on natural rubber." It is also considering boosting the rubber replantation subsidy from Rs 25,000 per hectare to Rs 50,000,'' Dhananiya said. Many people imported natural rubber disguised as compound rubber to avoid paying the higher duty on the former.

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