KOTTAYAM: After a prolonged delay, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has finally prepared and released a draft National Rubber Policy while the nation is gearing up for the Parliament elections. The Ministry has put up the policy in its website inviting feedback and suggestions from all the stakeholders to fine-tune it.
However, the draft policy has disappointed the rubber growers as no concrete steps have been mooted towards safeguarding the interests of the growers and to ensure stability in the price of natural rubber. Though the draft proposes policy interventions, operational interventions and financial support to the growers, all the suggestions appear abstract, ensuring no financial burden for the government.
Even while the price fall has forced rubber growers to switch over to other crops and a considerable number of farmers stopped tapping their rubber trees, which has become non-profitable for them, the financial support proposals in the draft are unclear on addressing the issue. While it stated “Budget from the Central Government in the rubber sector would focus on special allocation for new planting and replanting,” the draft is silent on the subsidy amount and allocations in this regard.
The draft says adequate planting subsidy would be given for incentivising rubber plantation, but the amount has not been recommended in this regard. In the case of price volatility, the draft says “Efforts would be made to address these issues by suitable programmes,” but no specific step has been suggested. Meanwhile, it says appropriate convergence and dovetailing of funds with other programmes of departments of ministries of the Central and state governments such as MGNREGS.
Though, there was a growing demand for changing the category of rubber from industrial raw material to an agriculture product, the draft was vague on the matter. “Notwithstanding the status of NR being a crucial industrial raw material, the possibility of treating NR as an agriculture product for all practical and legal purposes and income from rubber production as agricultural income would be explored in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare,” says the draft.
Many growers and farmers’ organisations have come out against the policy. According to Pius Scaria Pottamkulam, rubber farmer-cum-dealer, the draft policy has disappointed the farmers with no effective recommendations to save the rubber sector from the crisis.