The continuing slowdown in the European and the US economies apart, Chinese withdrawal from the global market before the end of December had fuelled the current fall in natural rubber price, said Rubber Board chairman Sheela Thomas here on Wednesday.

Ms. Thomas said there was no Chinese presence in the market in January though the country was the world’s largest natural rubber buyer.

She was speaking to reporters on the eve of the first edition of India Rubber Meet, which will bring together all stakeholders in what is approximately Rs. 50,000 crore-a-year industry.

Around 700 delegates from various parts of the world will attend the two-day meet, which will be addressed by industry lead figures like Stephen Evans, the secretary general of the Singapore-based International Rubber Study Group.

India expects to produce about 8.50 lakh tonnes of rubber during the current financial year, down from last year’s level of 9.12 lakh tonnes.

The fall in production this fiscal is attributed to unprecedented rains during June and July that brought rubber tapping to a halt entirely. The rain-induced early leaf fall syndrome added to the woes of the farmers.

The coming financial year is expected to be better with an expected production of 9.50 lakh tonnes. The rise in price of natural rubber forced up the quantum of imports during 2013. By the end of the financial year, a total of three lakh tonnes of rubber is expected to be imported, the current figure remaining approximately 2.72 lakh tonnes.

Rubber farmers in the country are estimated to have lost up to Rs. 10,000 crore on account of the fall in natural rubber price, starting October last year.

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