Cup lumps are oxidised rubber, mostly contaminated with dirt and other extraneous material, and their import has been prohibited as a phytosanitary measure by India.
The growers alleged that the present move has been mooted by the industry as a means to further reduce domestic rubber prices.
No quality standards
Confirming the development, sources in the Rubber Board told BusinessLine that the Centre has constituted a committee to recommend quality standards for rubber cup lumps.
The Board had earlier taken a view that import of cup lumps could not be permitted because there are no quality standards fixed by either domestic or international agencies. The Association of Planters of Kerala (APK) is also against the move saying that it would spell doom for the crisis-ridden rubber sector and urged the government to desist from any such initiatives.
The planters’ body pointed out that import of unprocessed raw materials is not encouraged anywhere in the world — particularly if the same item is produced within the country.
India is already importing 45 per cent of its rubber requirement by way of processed TSR made from these cup lumps abroad and these is no reason for lumps to be imported in large quantities for processing in the country.
Raising apprehensions, PC Cyriac, former Chairman of the Rubber Board, said that rubber cup lumps are produced in unsanitary conditions in countries like Thailand and Vietnam. The unsanitary conditions have been the breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria. At a time when the industry is demanding high quality rubber sheets, this import is unnecessary, he added.
He cited the destruction of whole plantations in Brazil, the home of rubber, due to spread of bacteria through a plantation disease, South American Leaf Blight. “It will be ruinous if India imports cup lumps and other similar materials without any processing,” Cyriac said.