Rubber cultivators in Kerala shift jobs over inadequate support on prices & finances - Hindustan Times

Rubber cultivators in Kerala shift jobs over inadequate support on prices & finances

Jun 22, 2024 03:13 PM IST

Kerala, which produces over 90% of India's rubber, sees its growers shifting jobs over weak government support on prices and better opportunities elsewhere.

Rubber growers in Kerala are shifting to other income-earning activities due to infrastructure development happening in the state, outgoing chairman of the Rubber Board of India, Sawar Dhanania, said on Saturday, as reported by PTI.

Latex drips from a tree at a rubber plantation (Jonathan Klein / AFP)
Latex drips from a tree at a rubber plantation (Jonathan Klein / AFP)

Kerala produces over 90% of India's natural rubber from a total cultivation area of 3.84 lakh hectares, producing around 3.70 lakh tonnes of rubber annually, according to data from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology.

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The background

There are about 10 lakh rubber growers and 3.5 lakh workers engaged in the rubber sector, according to the DSIR.

“They (rubber growers) are the experts and pioneers in this field, and their continued involvement is crucial for the country, said Dhanania, whose term as chairman came to an end today, after a tenure of five years. “If they persist with rubber cultivation, I am confident that within a decade, the country will produce more rubber than it demands.”

Dhanania requested the rubber growers in Kerala to remain with the practise, even if on a limited scale, urging them to trust and have confidence in the Rubber Board and the union government, PTI wrote.

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Why are they leaving the profession?

This comes just two days after Francis George, a Kerala Congress MP, spoke against the exemption of natural rubber from the recent increase in the support price for 14 agricultural crops, according to an article by The Hindu.

“Rubber farmers often miss out on financial support because rubber is not classified as an agricultural product,” said George. “The policy of not recognising rubber growers as farmers is unacceptable.”

There will be a strong push in the Lok Sabha to include rubber on the list of agricultural crops, he said, adding that “Rubber is a strategic crop that contributes significantly to the country’s economy.”

The estimated production and consumption of natural rubber in India for the financial year 2024-25 is 8.75 lakh tonnes and 14.25 lakh tonnes respectively. The figures were shared at the 187th meeting of the Rubber Board at Kottayam, Kerala, according to a Business Line report.

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The international scene and prices

International rubber prices on the other hand, are expected to soar due to shipping delays, as Chinese exporters have fully booked ships and containers.

This is because the US will be imposing additional tariffs on many Chinese products from August 1, causing Chinese traders and agencies to hurriedly export their products as much as possible before the tariff hike, according to a Mathrubhumi article.

Currently, the price of RSS (Ribbed Smoked Sheet) 4 rubber stands at 203, according to the article. Tyre companies are facing difficulty in procuring rubber from Southeast Asian countries, the article read.

The top exporters of rubber include Thailand, Indonesia, Cote d'Ivoire, Malaysia, and Vietnam, while India remains a net importer, being the 5th largest importer of rubber in the world, according to OEC data.

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