Rubber heartland jubilant as domestic prices peak in Kerala

Price of natural rubber crosses Rs 200-mark in market after 12 years
Representative image
Representative image

KOTTAYAM: In 2010-11, when rubber prices reached their peak, there was a popular saying in Kottayam, the hub of rubber production. It was said that a farmer who went to the fish market would return with a crate of expensive fish, while a farmer who went to sell his rubber stock would return with a brand-new vehicle. It seems those jubilant days have returned to the heartland of rubber, as the price of natural rubber has stabilised above Rs 200 per kg in the domestic market after 12 long years.

After more than a decade of crisis in the rubber plantation sector, there is finally a prosperous turn with domestic prices now on a profitable track at the beginning of another rubber tapping season.

As of June 26, natural rubber was priced at Rs 205 per kg in the Kottayam market, which is enticing for farmers who have refrained from tapping their rubber trees for many years due to falling prices. “It is certainly a good price, although not highly profitable when compared to the price hike of essential commodities. Furthermore, it remains uncertain how long this price increase will last,” said K T Thomas, a farmer in Chirackadavu near Kanjirappally.

Experts attribute the price rise to various factors, including lower production, higher consumption of natural rubber, and other national and international influences.

“The year 2023 saw a decrease in production due to an abnormal increase in rainy days and subsequent severe heat, resulting in lower yields and productivity across the board. That has led to a shortage of rubber in the market, exacerbated by the early arrival of monsoon this May, which has disrupted tapping processes,” said a source with the Rubber Board.

The Board sources also predict that prices in the domestic RSS (Ribbed Smoked Sheet, a form of raw natural rubber) market are likely to surge due to these factors.

Additionally, the Indian economy is projected to grow at a rate of 7.2% in the coming fiscal year, which will have a positive impact on the automobile sector’s demand for rubber. The overall demand for rubber consumption is also on the rise, further contributing to a potential increase in RSS prices in the domestic market.

Meanwhile, farmers collectives pointed out that a large section of farmers are unlikely to get the benefit of the rubber price hike as the weather remains adverse.

“The farmers were supposed to resume tapping in June after installing rain-guards for their trees in preparation for the monsoon season. Unfortunately, only 30% of farmers were able to complete the rain-guarding process, as the early onset of the monsoon disrupted their plans. As a result, most farmers were unable to begin tapping in the new season,” said Babu Joseph, general secretary, National Consortium of Rubber Producers’ Societies (NCRPS).

Additionally, farmers have no stock available, and those who have prepared their trees will need two to four weeks to produce rubber sheets for sale in the market.

“The sustainability of the current price increase is uncertain, and farmers will only benefit if the price remains stable for at least a month. The price of rubber must remain steady in order for farmers to benefit from this positive turn of events,” said P B Lal, a farmer in Ponkunnam.

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