NR policies take toll on India’s largest rubber producer

rubber-treesHarrisons Malayalam (HML), India’s largest producer of rubber and other agricultural crops faces profit loss as restrictions on felling old rubber trees and lack of replanting measures continue.  A loss of over Rs 100 crores over 13 lakh MT of natural rubber (NR) production and 10 lakh working days for its employees was announced by the rubber company.

Around 1,000 hectares with 2.5 lakh trees out of HML’ s total 6,000 hectares are lying idle and providing no yield. Venkitaraman Anand, the newly appointed Whole Time Director and Chief Executive of HML, says that a huge backlog of areas due for replanting shows drop in production, productivity and job opportunities.

“One sixth of our NR plantations or 2.5 lakh trees are left idle, disrupting the plantation cycle where 3 to 4% of the total area should be replanted to maintain high levels of productivity. This is further causing a demand for employment dropping,” he said.

As the Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court’s verdict to strike down the special officers’ orders to vacate plantation lands citing it as government lands in September 2018, the return from timber extracted per hectare are around Rs 4 lakh, whereas replantation per hectare costs an estimated Rs 6 lakh as rubber crop has a gestation period of  6-7 years

On top of these, rubber and timber’s low prices resulted in a huge backlog in areas for replanting especially in auxiliary occupations like plywood industry, cutting, loading, timber transport of which all depends on regular supply of trees.

Rubber tree is considered as a timber crop, and with its economic value, the government imposed restrictions of felling. In addition to this, the government has allowed seniorage on rubber trees last 2018.

India is one of the key producers of rubber, contributing to over 5% of global output. In 2018, data showed that India produced 6.9  tonnes of NR  but consumed 11.1 tonnes; the rest of its rubber requirement was imported. After China, India is the second- largest NR consumer.