Indonesian planter’s body, Association of Planters of Kerala (APK) expressed their concern over uncontrolled imports of natural rubber (NR). PK suggested that an institutionalised mechanism must be made to regulate shipments to protect local farmers.
APK said that the draft on the National Rubber Policy does not have a provision that protects domestic rubber farmer from unregulated importation of NR. This may depress domestic price for NR which may hurt the local production of rubber. Hence, 30% of the current productive areas would be left untapped.
A minimum support price for NR based on grading is demanded by the planters’ association. This demand is based on the guidelines provided by MS Swaminathan Commission in ensuring minimum support price to help farmers.
Indian Farmers Movement (Infam) President PC Cyriac said ,“What is important in the draft national rubber policy is the intention to help rubber growers who are in distress. Unfortunately, that intention is missing here,”
Cyriac furthered that the drafted policy is merely giving recommendations, which need to undergo various and painstaking discussions before proceeding to actual implementation. Cyriac said that decisions such as imposing higher import duty must undergo detailed discussions in the ministries of Industry, Finance and Agriculture before arriving at a certain decision.
“If the intention of the government is to levy higher import duty on rubber, they can do it straight away by invoking the provisions of the WTO agreement to levy safeguard duty,” he continued.
Furthermore, rubber growers are worried that the shift from Ribbed Smoked Sheet (RSS) to block rubber processing would may affect the farm-gate prices. Block rubber manufacturing involves high-energy consumption which adds up to the production cost. In addition, the process of manufacturing block rubber may also contribute to the pollution in the area. Thus, traders, growers, scientist and even environmentalists must be consulted before shifting from sheet rubber manufacturing to block rubber manufacturing
APK also said that some rubbers growers are eventually shifting away from the rubber cultivation to some other profitable livelihood. Hence, the group suggested that the policy must also focus on the viability of existing rubber plantations.
Moreover, rubber growers opined that rubber should be considered as an agricultural crop; whereas, system support for farmers of other crops must also be enjoyed by rubber growers regardless of the size of their holdings.