Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Rubber - A success story 100 years in the making
Work is on at a rubber plantation in Kerala.
KOTTAYAM, May 22
RUBBER, with its unbeatable record, has outlived all setbacks in its long history of 100 years and attained a production of 630,405 tonnes in an area of 563,000 hectares during 2000-2001, surpassing the targets fixed under Five-Year Plans. It also stands first among all other plantation crops in productive efficiency.
The commercial cultivation of rubber was started only in 1902, though it was introduced in India by the British in 1873. Strengthening and modernising rubber production through organised extension activities were initiated soon after the Rubber Board was constituted in 1947.
The Rubber Board's efforts in extension have modernised rubber cultivation in the country. Financial assistance was linked to adoption of modern technology. As a result of this, more than 97 per cent of the cultivated area would be brought under high-yielding clones.
The establishment of the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the board in 1955 laid the foundation for a research support to the board's activities.
Improvement in production and productivity, development of strategies for cost control and quality improvement, modernising of processing technology and development of new products have been the thrust areas for research.
The important contribution of RRII towards increasing production and productivity is the development of RRII 105, one of the most promising clones in the world in terms of potential and the realised yield.
The clone has substantially contributed the viability of NR cultivation in traditional rubber growing regions in India occupying about 85 per cent of the area planted since its release.
A few other clones developed by the RRII have also been recommended for limited scale planting. About 11 newly-bred clones having higher potential than RRII 105 are at various stages of evaluation.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu together constitute the traditional rubber growing regions in the country. These regions accounted for as much as 88 per cent of the total area of 559,000 hectares cultivated with this crop at the end of 1999-2000.
The small holding sector comprising 9.86 lakh units with the average size of less than half a hectare dominates the production sector.
India's productivity of NR measured in terms of average yield from unit hectare, which was 1,576 kg during 2000-2001, is the highest among the major producing countries.
A major feature of the export basket of rubber products is the dominance of the automobile tyres and retreads. Out of the export earnings of Rs 1,495 crore realised during 1999-2000, around 57 per cent came from this single product group.
The economic reform process introduced in 1991 has been a crucial factor in determining the price of rubber in the country. As a consequence of the various policy shifts targeting outward orientation, the ups and downs in the international market began to be reflected in the Indian market also. Now, encouraging exports of rubber has also formed part of the activities of the Rubber Board.
The area under natural rubber in India increased by nearly eight times, the production by more than 40 times and productivity by about 5.2 times
in the last 50 years - a remarkable achievement considering the fact that there are over 10 lakh small growers whose average holding size is less than 0.5 hectares.
Today, India is the third largest natural rubber producer, Thailand and Indonesia occupying the first and second positions.
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