UPASI's concern over decision to import rubber

CHENNAI, JULY 6. The United Planters' Association of Southern India (UPASI), Coonoor, has expressed concern over the domestic tyre manufacturers' decision to import rubber under Open General Licence (OGL) at a landed cost that will be more than the cost of domestically procured rubber of similar grade.

In a press release, the Chairman of UPASI's Rubber Committee, Mr. A. V. George, said the statement of the Automotive Tyre Manufacturers' Association (ATMA) that it was under no ``moral obligation'' to help domestic growers was ``shocking''. ``ATMA's gameplan is evident from its declaration that imports would have a psychological impact on domestic prices'', he said.

Mr. George said rubber growers, numbering one million, had been undergoing a crisis for over three years now. The average price of rubber, which was Rs. 48 a kg in 1996, declined to Rs. 37 a kg in 1997 and further to Rs. 27-28 during the period 1998-2000. The average price during the first half of 2001 was just Rs. 27 a kg, with no uptrend in sight.

However, the cost of production of rubber was now Rs. 40 a kg. The opening stock as of April 1, 2001, was 1.88 lakh tonnes, which was equal to about three-and-a-half months' production/consumption. The position was unlikely to improve to any significant extent, given the current trends in the national and international economy.

Mr. George said at a juncture when growers were anxious to see a depletion of stocks and an upturn in prices, ATMA planned to add to the stocks. ``What intrigues UPASI is not just the threat of import but the statements by ATMA to justify import'', he said.

Apart from ten lakh growers, the livelihood of three lakh labourers employed directly and permanently by the rubber plantations was also in jeopardy. ``Let ATMA realise that the (tyre) industry and the trade are two sides of the same coin and complementary to each other'', Mr. George added.