The Centre will give top priority to providing relief to rubber growers in crisis because of the fall in prices, Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.
“The priority will be on giving some relief to growers,” the Minister told reporters here, adding that the concerns related to rubber imports would also be addressed.
“Many small growers have stopped tapping rubber as prices have come down. Many are unable to pay workers and are left with nothing after paying wages and this will be addressed first,” she said.
The Minister, who had met representatives of rubber growers, traders and tyre manufacturers here yesterday, said the inputs she had received were more relating to problems faced by the rubber industry.
Asked whether the tyre industry was importing more than the required quantity of rubber, the Minister said figures showed import was much more than the demand-supply gap. However, there is no proof that the imports are by the tyre industry, she said.
Rubber Mark, the apex federation of primary cooperative rubber marketing societies, has suggested setting up of a ₹1,000 crore price stabilisation fund to compensate the loss to farmers due to price fall.
It is pointed out that the price of natural rubber has come down in the range of ₹121-123 a kg, which is the lowest in the last five years.
The federation in a memorandum submitted to the visiting Minister, requested suspension of rubber imports from September to January, the peak season of production. It also demanded hike in the import duty on rubber for both tyre and non-tyre sectors to at least 30 per cent.
According to S Ratnakumaran, Managing Director, Rubber Mark urged the government to include in the forthcoming National Rubber Policy a ₹200 crore Marketing Revolving Fund for the federation to pay for rubber procured from cooperative marketing societies.
This has been necessitated following the wipe-out of the working capital on account of the heavy loss incurred through rubber procurement. The federation has 38 member societies and more than 500 primary credit cooperatives as dealers.
Plea for JV
In view of the policy announced by the Centre for making indigenous products, the memorandum also suggested the government to set up joint venture industries for rubber-based products with the support of cooperatives involved in rubber industry for value addition.
There was also a request to declare Rubber Mark as the nodal agency for procuring rubber and to route all funds from the Centre for various schemes connected with the sector. During 2002-03, the federation had procured and exported 20,000 tonnes as directed by the Commerce and Industries Ministry.
– The Hindu