The area under natural rubber in the northeastern States of Tripura and Assam is likely to grow around 20,000 hectares this year with support from the rubber industry, which will join hands with the Rubber Board in an unprecedented partnership that ultimately aims to bring around two lakh hectares under fresh cultivation.
Rubber Board sources said that a firm idea about the expansion of area under rubber would evolve by April this year. However, it is expected that fresh planting will begin by July-August. Supply of planting materials is one of the key issues that will be addressed, even as details of the plantation programme are being finalised.
The total area under natural rubber in the seven northeastern States is around 1.89 lakh hectares of which over 60,000 hectares are accounted for by Tripura, which was the first non-traditional area in the country to experiment with rubber cultivation. Around 85% of rubber production in the country is accounted for by Kerala and some parts of Tamil Nadu, which are considered as traditional areas of rubber cultivation.
Assam has around 58,000 hectares under rubber, while Meghalaya’s lower reaches have around 16,300 hectares under the crop. Nagaland has around 15,000 hectares under rubber, while the other States have around 5,000 hectares each under the crop. The total production in northeastern States is around 1.12 lakh tonnes. According to the Rubber Board, India produced 7.12 lakh tonnes of natural rubber last year, down from a peak of over nine lakh tonnes in 2012-13.
The rubber sector has not much to cheer about, going by the budget announcements. However, board sources said that a final shape of things would emerge only after the proposals submitted for the 13th Plan are finalised.
Though the 2020-21 budget had made a provision of ₹221 crore, the proposal was shrunk to around ₹188 crore following the COVID-19 outbreak. Similar shrinkage in provisions was witnessed by other sectors, Rubber Board sources said.
The budgetary provision for the coming financial year is ₹190 crore, which will enable the board to carry out essential projects.