India’s Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Piyush Goyal, noted that natural rubber (NR) cultivation in the country is going through a challenging phase, due to the prolonged period of low prices as well as the inability of domestic output to meet the demands of the NR consuming industry.
Mr. Goyal’s comments were made during a Rubber Board Facebook Live session, conducted in connection with the launching of the Board’s “Campaign 2020”, to promote self-tapping and low frequency tapping among rubber growers in the country. Mr. Goyal stated his belief that the challenge posed by the supply of NR at low prices in the international market can be tackled only by improving the productivity within Indian plantations and bringing down the cost of production.
According to Mr. V.S. Sunilkumar, the Agriculture Minister of the Kerala state government, the main challenge faced by rubber growers is the fall in NR prices. India’s rubber plantations have the potential to produce about 1 million tonnes of the commodity, but total NR production during the last fiscal year was just 712,000 tonnes, he said. About 24% of the rubber growing area is being kept untapped, due to high production costs, low prices and the non-availability of skilled labour. Mr. Sunilkumar suggested that in order to overcome this situation, small farmers should tap their trees themselves.
Tapping charges account for the largest single component of the cost of harvesting rubber, accounting for almost 60% of the total cost. This high expenditure can be brought down by reducing the frequency of tapping (number of taps per week) and by the grower doing the tapping himself, suggested Dr. K.N. Raghavan, Chairman and Executive Director, Rubber Board. He also pointed out that the adoption of LFT and self-tapping by small growers would also help to utilise the services of professional rubber tappers more productively and optimally by channelizing their services through Rubber Tapper’s Banks. This would help to bring in more untapped plantations under tapping as well, thus increasing India’s overall NR production.
The Rubber Board’s Campaign 2020 started at 100 of its field stations in Kerala, as well as in the Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu. At each field station, a self-tapping grower explained to other farmers the gains he had made by adopting LFT and self-tapping. It is hoped that hearing from a peer who has successfully implemented these innovations will help inspire confidence in these methods. The Rubber Board plans to reach 50,000 farmers with this message through their campaign.