KOCHI: Can a common quality standard be prescribed for something that is unprocessed, contaminated with dirt, soot and other foreign materials? Can a quality standard be defined for a material that is unhygienic, and whose imports were once prohibited as a phytosanitary measure?
Common sense says you can’t, but strange as it may seem, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is looking at the possibility! The BIS has convened a meeting in New Delhi on Thursday to prescribe a common quality standard to evolve standards for raw cup lumps - the residual lump formed from natural latex that coagulates in the cup after tapping is over.The move, experts allege, is to help vested interests import substandard quality of field coagulum.
“Raw cup lumps are unprocessed natural raw material collected from rubber tree post tapping and suffer from wide natural heterogeneities and it is not possible to evolve a standard nor any standards are available worldwide. This work was taken up earlier by the Rubber Board and BIS, and was dropped as it was not possible to frame a common standard,” said Jacob Mathew, former joint director of the Rubber Board, and an international consultant on natural rubber.
Association of Latex Processors (Kerala) vice-chairman Santhosh Kumar said the cup lumps are produced by growers in African and South East Asian countries after leaving the latex tapped in the cups for two-three days to oxidase and coagulate into lumps.
“These lumps are very often heavily contaminated with varying degrees of moisture and dirt and often harbour microbes and disease-containing organisms, which are a threat under the phytosanitary code,” said Kumar, who is also a member of the UPASI Rubber Committee.The unregulated import of raw cup lumps poses a threat not only to rubber cultivation in the country but also to other crops grown in the region, he said.
The cup lumps or the coagulated natural latex is a raw material to make technically specified rubber (TSR) or block rubber, which is one of the grades of rubber used by the industry. There are 1.3 million farmers with very low holding size of 0.6 hectares of land and it is impossible to test and ascertain the technical parameters of the product at the farmers’ premises, said Kumar.
“The TSR produced by processing these cup lumps has clear standards and is graded and marketed accordingly. Thus, there is no necessity nor is it possible to evolve such standards. However, for imports to take place, there has to be standards and thus one section of the industry that is thriving on imports of rubber is prevailing on the PMO to direct the BIS to make standards so that these products can be imported as per the prevailing laws on import,” said Kumar.