The Indian rubber industry’s over-dependence on imported, cheap natural rubber may be highly unsustainable, posing serious challenges for its growth and competitiveness, said Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
A study carried out by the RRII said that the industry is losing its momentum and its contribution to the economy is on the decline in recent years.
There are structural changes happening to the industries of major natural rubber exporting countries and availability of cheap rubber in the international market cannot be taken for granted, it observed.
Natural rubber has a dominant role in the rubber industry, as it constitutes 66 per cent of the total amount of rubber the industry consumes.
Also, because of non-remunerative prices, rubber production has been on the decline as growers are abstaining from tapping the trees.
Despite declining domestic production, rubber consumption and the industry continued to grow, though at lower rates, with substantial imports.
The longer the decline continues, the more difficult it will be to reverse the trend because of perennial nature of the crop, the study said.
Highlighting the nature of its importance in the economy, study therefore suggested proactive steps to sustain the domestic rubber production base with adequate public investment to ensure sustaind domestic supply to the industry.
Also, to provide a relief to farmers who are reeling under the pressure of low rubber price, another study by the institute suggested cultivation of cocoa as a potential inter-crop for mature rubber under tapping.
RRII has successfully demonstrated the initiative on a small landholding in Kerala representing the central traditional rubber growing tract in India.