Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Mar 27, 2004
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Rubber Board apprises Plan panel of need for higher exports
New Delhi , March 26
THE Rubber Board deems export of natural rubber not only as an "effective instrument to neutralise the adverse impact of imports" but also to "find alternative markets to Indian natural rubber to reduce dependence on domestic market alone".
In a presentation to the Planning Commission here on March 24, the board said the removal of quantitative restrictions on import of natural rubber necessitated evolving "appropriate strategies".
This is to ensure that the demand supply balance was maintained to avoid over-supply and resultant violent volatility in price, to the dismay of growers of this important cash crop in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and non-traditional areas such as Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, West Bengal and North East of India, official sources told Business Line here.
Hence, the board has pitched for higher export of natural rubber to relieve pressure on growers to find marketing outlets for their produce and said the continuation of export subsidy initiated last fiscal should be maintained for some more time.
The board apprised the Plan panel that in 2002-03 the country imported 26,299 tonnes of natural rubber and exported 55,311 tonnes. In the the first eleven months of the current fiscal, imports were at 26,229 tonnes and exports at 61,180 tonnes. Export of rubber goods was estimated at Rs 2528.3 crore, while import at Rs 770.40 crore for 2002-03.
The sources said that in 2002-03 the production was 6.5 lakh tonnes and consumption 6.96 lakh tonnes. In the current fiscal, the production is estimated to be 7.11 lakh tonnes and consumption 7.18 lakh tonnes, leaving the gap to be met through imports.
The sources said that export of natural rubber has become attractive in the last couple of years as international prices firmed up, even as domestic prices have begun inching up. Natural rubber prices (RSS 3 at Kula Lumpur) have gone up from Rs 3,696 per 100 kg in 2002 to Rs 4,985 per 100 kg in 2003.
Even as the objectives of the Tenth Plan (2002-07) for rubber industry include global competitiveness in quality and cost, improving the economic viability of rubber plantation, market development and increase in consumption by product diversification including non-conventional applications, the Rubber Board is faced with a slew of challenges in translating these objectives into tangible gains, the sources said.
The challenges confronting the board include, among others, increasing the production and productivity of natural rubber through intensive research and extension, ensuring remunerative returns to growers by fostering marketing channels and improving the quality of processed rubber to meet consumer demand both in domestic and global markets. The Plan panel was apprised of the major rubber plantation development, currently under way, covering replanting of 35,000 hectares and new planting of 15,000 hectares.
As part of fine-tuning processing segment, efforts are under way to ensure better product acceptance through improved packaging and improve environmental protection measures with emphasis on waste utilisation. Efforts are also on to promote marketing of rubber produced by small holders and rubber wood by providing financial and technical assistance.
Reviewing the performance of Rubber Plantation Development, both traditional and non-traditional regions other than North East, the Rubber Board has apprised the Plan panel that against the target of planting material of five lakh hectares for the current fiscal, the anticipated level would be 5.05 lakh hectares, the sources said.
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