Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy urged Union Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Anand Sharma to increase the import duty on rubber. Chandy met Sharma in the capital on Tuesday and pushed for a duty hike to safeguard the interests of local rubber planters. The existing import duty on natural rubber is Rs 20 per kg or 20 per cent, whichever is lower. With a drop in rubber prices, imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have increased, thereby hurting the interests of Kerala’s farmers.
Commerce ministry sources said that Sharma informed Chandy that he has already asked the finance ministry to increase the import duty on rubber. “The Kerala Chief Minister has also asked Sharma to take steps to protect the interests of domestic growers of cashew and cardamom. Huge imports of cardamom are taking place from Guatemala,” a commerce ministry official said.
Recent decline in the price of natural rubber has been a major cause for concern among Kerala farmers. The state accounts for almost 90 per cent of the country’s rubber production. Rubber prices were R230 per kg last year and have sharply dropped to `160 per kg. Tyre companies primarily import natural rubber. 1.31 lakh tonne of natural rubber was imported from India in the first six months of 2012-’13. India is the fourth largest producer of natural rubber in the world.
Chandy also sought the government’s nod for Kochi-Palakkad National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ), a mega industrial infrastructure project worth Rs 53,825 crore. Sharma purportedly said that the area was too small for an NIMZ but the benefits of NIMZ could be availed as a cluster.