Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, on Monday, said the Commerce Ministry had sent its views on the issue of fixing import duty on rubber and now it was the job of the Finance Ministry to take a final view on it.
“There is a need to review the existing formula to fix the import duty on rubber. We have sent our recommendations to the Department of Revenue,” Mr. Sharma told reporters here. Rubber growers have asked the government to increase the import duty to protect the domestic growers’ interests.
Kerala accounts for about 90 per cent of the rubber produced in India. Prices of the commodity have fallen to about Rs.160 a kg from last year’s Rs.230 a kg. This has caused worries among the farmers and growers.
The Commerce Minister said he had held consultations with all the stakeholders, including MPs from Kerala. Natural rubber is mainly imported by tyre manufacturers. According to estimates, natural rubber imports stood at 1.31 lakh tonne during the first-half of the current fiscal. There is already speculation that after the demand by the rubber growers, the government could hike the import duty on rubber. India is the fourth largest rubber producer in the world. The existing duty is Rs.20 a kg, or 20 per cent, whichever is lower. Domestic rubber prices have gone down by 20-25 per cent in the last five months and imports have increased. India imports natural rubber from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
At the same time, Mr. Sharma emphasised the need to increase production of spices to boost exports. “We are producing about 48 per cent of the world spices. But we export only 10 per cent. Last year, we exported spices worth $2 billion. There is a need to increase it by way of increasing the production,’’ he added.