GS3/ GS1 Paper
Syllabus: Agriculture/ Geography
Context: India’s rubber industry is facing challenges as production falls behind growing demand.
Status of the Rubber Industry:
- History: The first rubber plantations in India were set up in 1895 on the hill slopes of Kerala. However, rubber cultivation on a commercial scale was introduced in 1902.
- Distribution: Kerala (the largest producer of natural rubber in India); Tamil Nadu; Karnataka; Tripura, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar, Goa etc are some other rubber-producing States.
- Natural rubber is preferred over synthetic rubberdue to its high tensile strength and vibration-dampening properties, along with tear resistance. This makes it important for the construction and automobile industries.
Key issues faced by the rubber industry in India:
|Falling rubber prices||Prices have plunged from a peak of 540 cents/kg in 2011 to 130 cents/kg in recent years, discouraging rubber producers and leading to the abandonment of plantations.|
|High labour costs||Labour-intensive activities like tapping rubber trees require skilled workers, but paying for labour amid falling prices has made rubber plantations financially unattractive.|
|Import competition||Imports of rubber, usually available at lower prices than the domestic market, drive down prices and further discourage domestic production.|
|Production-consumption gap||The demand for natural rubber in India, primarily driven by the tire industry, has surged, creating a significant gap between production and consumption.|
|Climate change||Changing weather conditions, influenced by climate change, pose challenges to rubber farming, particularly in traditional cultivation areas like Kerala.|
|Lack of technological adoption||Limited adoption of technological advancements in the industry hinders productivity and competitiveness.|
|Land conversion and fragmentation||Instead of finding ways to increase production, some rubber plantations are being sold or converted for other purposes, leading to the fragmentation of rubber holdings.|
Government’s initiatives in the Rubber sector:
- Rubber Plantation Development Scheme: To support the development of rubber plantations by providing financial assistance to farmers
- Rubber Group Planting Scheme: Financial incentive by the government to form rubber farmer groups and societies.
- National Rubber Policy 2019: It includes provisions to support the natural rubber production sector and the entire rubber industry value chain.
- Sustainable and Inclusive Development of the Natural Rubber Sector (Implemented by the Rubber Board) for R&D in the rubber plantation.
- 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Rubber Plantations allowed
Steps that can be taken to revive the rubber industry in India:
|Promote Research and Development||Establish dedicated research institutes and labs for rubber, focusing on developing new varieties, improving cultivation techniques, and addressing climate change challenges.|
|GM Rubber||Rubber Board research farm is growing the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plants, tailored for the climatic conditions of Northeast India.|
|Encourage the Adoption of Technology||Promote the use of modern farming technologies, such as rubber-tapping machines and automation, to increase efficiency and reduce labour costs.|
|Enhance Financial Support and Subsidies||Provide financial assistance, subsidies, and loans to rubber farmers for plantation establishment, replantation, and adoption of modern cultivation practices.|
|Improve Infrastructure and Logistics||Establish rubber clusters and industrial parks to create a supportive ecosystem for rubber processing and value addition.|
|Focus on Skill Development||Collaborate with educational institutions and vocational training centres to offer specialized courses on rubber farming.|
|Strengthen Market Linkages||Encourage tie-ups between farmers and rubber-based industries, such as the tire manufacturing sector, to ensure a steady demand and fair prices|
|Promotion of Rubber in India’s North East||Four members of the ATMA in partnership with the Rubber Board have a plan to create 200,000 hectares of new rubber plantations in Northeast India and West Bengal.|
By implementing these measures, the rubber industry can regain its strength, boost production, and create a sustainable and prosperous future for rubber farmers in India.
Enumerate the issues faced by the Rubber sector in India and suggest the measures required to revive it. (15M)