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Reviving rubber industry

GS3/ GS1 Paper 

 Syllabus: Agriculture/ Geography

 

Source: BBC

 Context: India’s rubber industry is facing challenges as production falls behind growing demand.

 

About Rubber:

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:

IssueExamples
Falling rubber pricesPrices 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 costsLabour-intensive activities like tapping rubber trees require skilled workers, but paying for labour amid falling prices has made rubber plantations financially unattractive.
Import competitionImports of rubber, usually available at lower prices than the domestic market, drive down prices and further discourage domestic production.
Production-consumption gapThe demand for natural rubber in India, primarily driven by the tire industry, has surged, creating a significant gap between production and consumption.
Climate changeChanging weather conditions, influenced by climate change, pose challenges to rubber farming, particularly in traditional cultivation areas like Kerala.
Lack of technological adoptionLimited adoption of technological advancements in the industry hinders productivity and competitiveness.
Land conversion and fragmentationInstead 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:

StepsExamples
Promote Research and DevelopmentEstablish dedicated research institutes and labs for rubber, focusing on developing new varieties, improving cultivation techniques, and addressing climate change challenges.
GM RubberRubber 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 TechnologyPromote the use of modern farming technologies, such as rubber-tapping machines and automation, to increase efficiency and reduce labour costs.
Enhance Financial Support and SubsidiesProvide financial assistance, subsidies, and loans to rubber farmers for plantation establishment, replantation, and adoption of modern cultivation practices.
Improve Infrastructure and LogisticsEstablish rubber clusters and industrial parks to create a supportive ecosystem for rubber processing and value addition.
Focus on Skill DevelopmentCollaborate with educational institutions and vocational training centres to offer specialized courses on rubber farming.
Strengthen Market LinkagesEncourage 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 EastFour 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.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Insta Links:

Rubber plantations in Tripura affecting monkeys, vegetation, suggests paper

 

Mains Links

Enumerate the issues faced by the Rubber sector in India and suggest the measures required to revive it. (15M)

 

Prelims Links:

Match List-I with List-II and select the correct answer using the code given below the Lists: ( UPSC 2008)

List-I (Board)List II (Headquarters)
A. Coffee Board1. Bengaluru
B. Rubber Board2. Guntur
C. Tea Board3. Kottayam
D. Tobacco Board4. Kolkata

Code: A B C D

 

(a) 2 4 3 1
(b) 1 3 4 2
(c) 2 3 4 1
(d) 1 4 3 2

 

Ans: B