The Centre would take a ‘time-bound’ decision on increasing import duty of natural rubber, Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.
A decision in this regard would be taken after taking into consideration the views expressed by stakeholders in the rubber sector, the minister told reporters here.
She held meetings with tubber growers, traders and tyre manufacturers here.
The minister said Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had also met her and sought an increase in import duty.
Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, and MPs of rubber growing areas also met the Union minister. The state accounts for 90 per cent of rubber produced in the country.
Rubber growers have been demanding that the Centre should take steps to get them fair price for their product. They also wanted an increase in import duty of rubber.
The price of natural rubber, which was Rs 200 per kg two years ago, is Rs 121 per kg today. Same day last year, it was Rs 178 per kg, a 32 per cent fall in the last one year.
Though the state government had announced that it would procure rubber at Rs 2 more than the market rate through the Marketfed and Rubber Mark, the scheme did not take off as growers did not sell rubber.
Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association Director General Rajeev Budhraja pointed that Indian rubber prices were 25 per cent more than international rubber prices and purchasing rubber from India was not viable.
Last year India had imported over 3 lakh tonnes of rubber and this year, it is expected to touch about 4 lakh tonnes.
A Rubber Board press release quoting the minister said the Commerce Ministry had been receiving many representations from different sectors, but the views expressed by them were often divergent and sometimes contradictory.
It was felt that any decision taken to diffuse the present crisis should reflect the ground reality and that was why it was decided to convene a meeting of all the stakeholders, she said.
The Ministry would also like to get suggestions and solutions to address the situation. But any action taken should ultimately ensure adequate supply of quality raw material to meet the growing demands of the industry, she said.
Kerala chief minister informed the Commerce Minister that large scale import of rubber had been made during the last few months, which were more than what was needed to meet the domestic deficit. The wages had gone up when rubber prices were high and now farmers find it difficult to continue harvesting.
He suggested that quantity of imports should be limited to meet the deficit and that too in lean production periods, and import duty should be increased to 25 per cent or Rs 35 whichever is higher.
The stakeholders representing various sectors of the rubber industry presented their problems and suggestions before the Minister. She assured the participants that their views would be considered while formulating programmes and policies for safeguarding the interests of all the sectors.
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