Rubber growers affected by increase in imports: Nirmala

Thursday, Dec 18, 2014,21:06 IST By metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | Concerned over increasing rubber imports into the country, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said small growers in states like Kerala are getting affected due to decline in prices. Sitharaman also said that due to unavailability of real time data on export and import of rubber and other agriculture commodities, the government is not able to take concrete steps to help the farmers.
There is absolute no real time data in India on commodities which (are) exported from India…I was astonished that if I were to go back to provide some kind of a relief to the small rubber growers who are really under depressed price environment (how could I do it without adequate data). They are not able to get price for their rubber…today we are in a situation where state like Kerala which is really affected because small growers are not getting price enough to meet their cost of production, she said.
She was speaking at a function organised by Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT). The Minister said that contrary to the principle that if production is lower than the demand farmer should get good price, the prices are declining. Unfortunately because you also have a free import policy, a lot of rubber comes into this country…and much more rubber comes than what is actually required and as a result we do not know where this excess rubber which comes into the country goes…that import has affected the price and as a result today the small rubber growers are in a desperation, she said.
The minister said that adequate information about the data would help the government to assist those farmers. The persistent fall in the price of natural rubber has caused concern among rubber farmers in Kerala, which accounts for more than 94 per cent of the commoditys total production in the country. Rubber price, which ruled around Rs 220 per kg in January 2011, has now touched a low of Rs 123 per kg in the domestic market. The total area under rubber cultivation in Kerala is at 5.45 lakh hectares. It is the livelihood of as many as 11.50 lakh farmers with most of them small holders having less than 1.5 hectares under rubber.
Total rubber production in Kerala for the year 2012-13 stood at 8 lakh tonne. Last year India had imported over 3 lakh tonnes of rubber and this year, it is expected to touch about 4 lakh tonnes. Imports increased notwithstanding the Centre raising import duty on natural rubber to Rs 30 per kg or 20 per cent, whichever is lower, in December last year.
Rubber growers have been demanding that the Centre take steps to get them fair price for their product. They also want an increase in import duty of rubber. In September in Kochi, Sitharaman has said that the Centre would take a ‘time-bound’ decision on increasing import duty of natural rubber. Sitharaman said due to non availability of adequate data, the ministry is not able to properly anticipate the international rubber prices.