New Delhi: Industry body ATMA today said the government should boost rubber production by encouraging re-plantation and giving more subsidies to growers as India’s ageing rubber trees can lead to supply concerns in the coming years.
Growers have not been willing to replant because of the long gestation period. They continue to tap aged trees as they feel that despite lower yields of natural rubber (NR), the current high prices are remunerative, it said in a statement.
“Growers need to be encouraged to re-plant with higher re-plantation subsidies. Since NR prices have come off from their peak levels currently, growers will be more receptive towards re-plantation initiative of the Rubber Board,” Automotive Tyre Manufacturers? Association (ATMA) said.
This issue will be raised in the next meeting of the Working Group on National Rubber Policy as any further delay will severely impact long-term interests of both the producing and consuming interests, it said.
A rubber tree has a gestation period of six to seven years, before the tree is ready to be tapped. Between 7 to 10 years, a rubber tree is tender-yielding followed by 10 years of maximum yield after which the yield begins to peter out.
Stating that India poses a “grave risk” of lower NR production in the coming years, ATMA Director General Rajiv Budhraja said: “While recent instances of drop in production or cut in projected estimates were attributed to inclement weather, the fact remains that yields are under pressure in view of ageing of trees in India.”
“We are sure the working group will take a note of this vital subject of ageing of rubber trees and suggest measures to undo the same in the policy being drafted,” he said.
Budhraja said that the “worrisome trend” is that India is “sub-optimally” using its existing natural rubber resources by not resorting to timely re-plantation, while other consuming nations are consolidating their supplies by even developing plantations overseas.
Natural rubber productivity, which stood at 1903 kg per hectare in 2008, has come down to 1823 kg per hectare in 2012, he added.
According to ATMA’s latest study, as much as 45 per cent of NR plantations in India are in the low-yielding ‘aged’ category, out of which one-fourth are over-aged.
“The age-profile of rubber trees has taken a turn for the worse over the years and long term availability of NR for meeting rising demand is a subject of utmost concern,” the study said.
ATMA members are the largest consumers of natural rubber in India accounting for 70 per cent of total consumption.
– India Times