Finance Minister Mani calls for import curbs, hike in duty

The Kerala government has formally launched the procurement of rubber directly from farmers at Rs.2 more than the market price fixed by the Rubber Board.

Launching the scheme at a function here on Monday, Finance Minister K.M. Mani called for a change in the import policy of the Union government. He said the present slump in rubber price was the result of unnecessary import of rubber.

2.6 lakh tonnes

“Around 2.60 lakh tonnes of rubber has been imported while there was nearly Rs.2.66 lakh tonne rubber in the domestic market. The current scenario has resulted in a huge surplus of natural rubber stock in the domestic market and this has led to the price fall.”

Besides restricting the unwanted import of rubber, the Union government must hike the import duty, he said. Mr. Mani called for compelling companies to purchase the required rubber from the domestic market at the same price, including the import tax, at which rubber was being imported at present.

Mr. Mani expressed optimism that district cooperative banks would contribute towards shouldering the expense of rubber procurement. The representatives of a consortium of district cooperative banks were scheduled to participate in a meeting at Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday in this regard, he said.

He added that the rubber growers, who usually received around Rs.2 a kg less than the market price from agencies, were likely to be benefit by nearly Rs.4 per kg through the rubber procurement scheme.

Kerala State Marketing Federation (Marketfed) chairman V. Sathyaseelan urged the government to increase the handling charge that had been set for the procurement agencies by at least Re.1.

As per the current arrangement, the agencies will be provided Rs.6, of which Rs.2 will be provided to the farmers. Mr. Sathyaseelan said that the handling charge of Rs.4 per kg was insufficient and that the agencies could suffer losses. However, Mr. Mani, who spoke later, was of the opinion that the amount was adequate.

Marketfed Managing Director Tomin J. Thachankary, who presented the report, said that only 70 per cent of the nearly 10 lakh rubber farmers in the State had registered with the Rubber Board. He pointed out that those interested in benefitting from the rubber procurement scheme must register with the Rubber Board. He added that the procurement would continue until the market price stabilised at Rs.171 per kg.

State Cooperative Bank chairman Kurian Joy, Jose K. Mani and Joy Abraham, MPs, Marketfed vice chairman N.P. Paulose, District Congress Committee president Tomy Kallani, Kottayam District Cooperative Bank president K.J. Philip, Kerala State Cooperative Rubber Marketing Federation (Rubbermark) managing director S. Ratnakumaran,and others took part.

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