The Centre would address the problems faced by rubber growers, including the import of natural rubber, Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday at a meeting of stakeholders of rubber.
Rubber growers have been demanding an increase in import duty of rubber. The price of natural rubber, which was R200 per kg two years ago, is down to R120-125 per kg. She pointed out that 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 added.
The Centre has set up an expert committee, chaired by Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, additional secretary (plantations), to formulate the National Rubber Policy.
India, the world’s fifth-biggest producer, is the second-largest consumer of natural rubber in the world after China. The main concern for the million-plus rubber growers is the serious price crisis as they are solely dependent on rubber for their livelihoods.
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, Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy pointed out at the meeting. The wages had gone up when rubber prices were high and now farmers find it difficult to continue harvesting, Chandy added. 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% or R35, whichever is higher.
Earlier on Friday, while launching composite promotion for spices at a function organised by the Spices Board, the commerce minister said that the domestic demand for spices needs to be promoted more to reduce the volatility in prices when exports suffer. The minister also said there is need for a composite approach for the promotion of spices in the country, especially the north east, which was doing ‘extremely well’ in spices.