KOTTAYAM: As the heartland of natural rubber cultivation in the state is witnessing a series of unprecedented protests over the steep fall in the price of rubber, the future prospects of the rubber farming sector look grim, taking into account various factors. The NR sector in state, which has been almost paralysed since the third quarter of the financial year 2014-15 following the unprecedented price fall, has plunged into further trouble, owing to the ineffectual and adverse policies of the governments and the latest in the series is the exclusion of traditional areas of rubber cultivation, which are Kerala and Tamilnadu, from the planting subsidy schemes. Though, the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, assured that Kerala has not been excluded from the scheme and said that the government has invited applications for subsidies from the non-traditional cultivation areas in the first stage, cut in budgetary allocations and scenarios in the import of rubber indicate a dreary future for it.
There has been a significant fall in budgetary allocation, which put the Rubber Board in severe financial crisis, forcing it to discontinue nearly 25 different schemes they were following for promoting natural rubber during the past one year. While the approved plan outline for the Board was ` 176 cr for the year 2013-14, the Central government had released only ` 157 cr, which forced them to hold the release of the subsidy to next year. However, though the plan outline was ` 192 crore in the year 2014-15, the government had released only ` 150 crore, throwing a spanner in the works of the Board. Yet, the Board managed to release the planting subsidy for the previous year and put the on-going year’s subsidy on hold.
“Already, there is a pending amount of ` 40 crore towards subsidy for the year 2014-15, and there is a significant cut in the budgetary announcement as well. The Board not is in a condition to bear another burden in the prevailing situation,” says a top official of the Board on condition of anonymity.
On the other side, there is a steep increase in the difference between production and consumption, which has reached 3.63 lakh tonnes. Such a figure is sufficient to justify the import of rubber to the tune of 4.4 lakh tonnes in the previous year, by the companies. When the import moves in such ratio and farmers continue to abstain from production, the rubber growing sector will plunge into further crisis.