June , 2024
Government Initiatives Aim to Bolster Rubber Cultivation and Innovation
19:19 pm

Kuntala Sarkar

Rubber tree plantation has seen significant growth in India, thanks to robust government oversight and favorable weather conditions. Traditionally, Kerala and the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu have been prime locations for rubber cultivation. However, in response to increasing demand, rubber plantations have expanded to the northeast region of the country. Although rubber cultivation initially began in southern India in the early 1900s, India has now risen to become the world’s third-largest producer and fourth-largest consumer of natural rubber, and the fifth-largest consumer of both natural and synthetic rubber combined, according to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research under the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Industrial Utility

India’s rubber industry is segmented into two sectors: the tire sector and the non-tire sector. The tire sector includes automotive tires and heavy-duty earthmoving tires, while the non-tire sector encompasses tubes, automobile components, footwear, belting, hoses, cycle tires, tubes, cables, wires, camelback, battery enclosures, latex items, pharmaceutical products, as well as molded and extruded products for mass consumption. The automotive tire sector dominates rubber consumption, accounting for approximately 50%, followed by bicycle tires and tubes at 15%, footwear at 12%, belts and hoses at 6%, and camelback and latex products at 7%. The remaining rubber products collectively make up 10%. The non-tire sector consists of medium, small, and tiny enterprises producing advanced industrial goods, with small-scale enterprises contributing over 50% of rubber goods production in this category.

Industrial Growth: Rising Need for Rubber

Despite facing challenges, India maintains a robust domestic demand for rubber. The country’s thriving tire industry, the primary consumer of rubber products, is a significant driver. In 2023, India’s tire production reached approximately 217.4 million units, highlighting the nation’s substantial appetite for rubber. However, as India’s automotive sector continues to expand, a disparity between domestic production and consumption may emerge. To address this, investments in research, enhanced agricultural techniques, and potential expansion of synthetic rubber production to complement natural rubber sources could help bridge the supply gap.

Governmental Support

The government has increased its financial support for the rubber sector by 23%, raising it to ₹708.69 crore from ₹576.41 crore over the next two years. This initiative aims to boost natural rubber production and productivity while reducing future import reliance. Through this scheme, the Rubber Board offers subsidies for both new planting and replanting activities to growers. Additionally, the central government plans to support planting on 12,000 hectares in traditional areas such as Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, as well as on 3,752 hectares in non-traditional areas like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and the northeastern states. These regions will be incorporated into rubber cultivation over the next two fiscal years until 2025-26. Moreover, the assistance rate has been raised to ₹40,000 per hectare from the previous ₹25,000 per hectare, with an allocation of ₹29 crore for rubber research over the specified period.

Production of Natural Rubber

With an estimated production exceeding 631 thousand tonnes of natural rubber and a projected output of over one million tons in the near future, natural rubber production significantly contributes to industry growth. According to a Statista report, India produced approximately 839,000 metric tonnes of natural rubber in the fiscal year 2023, marking an annual increase of about 8%. This was the fourth consecutive year of production growth. Kerala, with a total rubber cultivation area of 3.84 lakh hectares and an annual production of 3.70 lakh tonnes, accounts for over 90% of India’s natural rubber output. Small holdings, averaging around 0.5 hectares each, constitute 92% of this total area. The state boasts approximately 10 lakh growers and 3.5 lakh workers in the rubber sector, with over 90% hailing from Kerala.

Domestic Consumption and Exports

India exported over 3.56 thousand metric tonnes of natural rubber in fiscal year 2022, marking a significant decrease compared to the previous year. Despite being a leading rubber producer, India still imports rubber from other countries to meet its demand. In 2021, India ranked as the second-largest consumer of natural rubber globally, trailing behind China. According to a Statista report, India’s natural rubber consumption experienced a nearly 10% decline in 2020 but rebounded by 21% in 2021, reaching approximately 1.3 million tonnes, and 1.35 million tonnes in 2022-23. The natural rubber deficit, coupled with its labor-intensive production process, has driven up demand for synthetic rubber. In fiscal year 2022, India’s synthetic rubber production volume reached around 383 thousand metric tons. 

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