KOCHI: This year may see India fall belowChina to the sixth position in the global natural rubber production with the domestic rubber industry hit by price crash and labour crisis.
At present, India is ranked below Thailand,Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Last year, India’s production – at 6.55 lakh tonnes – was the worst in 12 years. This fiscal year, the rubber output is down by 15 per cent in the first half. A labour strike across plantations demanding a wage hike in Kerala has led to the stoppage of work in big rubber estates.The small farmers are not keen on tapping because of low prices.Kerala produces 90 per cent of the country’s natural rubber.
“Some years ago, the projection was that India would achieve one million tonnes rubber production. But from the third position above Malaysia, we dropped to the fifth below Vietnam and is likely to fall below China this year given the shrinkage in output,” said N Radhakrishnan, a leading rubber merchant. The rubber output in Thailand, the top producer, is around 4 million tonnes.
As per Rubber Board data, the production of 2,81,000 tonnes in the six months to September 2015 is 15 per cent lower than the output for the same period a year ago. The consumption showed just 2 per cent drop at 5,01,535 tonnes. However, the imports – at 2,13,184 tonnes – recorded a 10 per cent drop in the period.
The rubber production has been falling all the months this fiscal year except for August, when it went up by 8 per cent. The peak harvest season for rubber starts from September. But the production has now dropped 15 per cent for September too at 51,000 tonnes.
“It is like virtually a month’s production has been wiped out. The rubber imports have come down because of the increase in the import of finished tyres, which has hit the tyre industry badly . We thought the price support scheme of the Kerala government will arrest the fall in production,” said Rajiv Budhraja, director general, Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association.