UPASI urges Centre to ban import of natural rubber

Kochi, Jan 22: The United Planters' Association of Southern India (UPASI), the apex body of planters in south India, today made a strong plea to the Central government to slap a ban on import of natural rubber through all channels till its domestic price stabilises at remunerative levels, and ensure the survival of more than a million growers and their families, mostly in Kerala. 

UPASI president N. Dharmaraj drew attention of the government to the plight of rubber growers who are “in grave distress” due the record low current price levels of Rs 98 per kg for the prime grade RSS IV, which is far below the cost of production.

“The low prices are forcing the farmers to stop tapping or even abandon rubber cultivation, and UPASI is seriously concerned about their plight,” he said.

Mr. Dharmaraj cited production statistics published by the Rubber Board, in support of his contention. Production during April 15-December 15 last year was 4.28 lakh metric tonnes as compared to 5.10 metric tonnes during the corresponding period a year earlier. On the contrary, the imports touched a figure of 3.27 lakh metric tonnes during April-December 2015, accounting for 76 % of the production and 44% of consumption of natural rubber.

“The unrestricted imports are the primary reason for the price crash affecting the lives of more than a million growers and their families, mostly in Kerala,” he pointed out.

While appreciating the Government of India’s decision to impose port restrictions in imports and ban duty-free imports till March this year, UPASI said the latest initiatives would have been more effective if imports were allowed only through the ports of Kolkata and Visakhapatanam as done earlier and all imports checked for quality and action initiated against importers of inferior quality material.

“Currently bulk of the imports is through Chennai and Mumbai ports only and restricting imports through other ports will not have much impact. Further the percentage of duty-free imports is only to an extent of 15-20% of total imports,” he said.

 “We, therefore, appeal to Government of India for its immediate intervention in imposing ban on natural rubber imports through all channels till the domestic prices stabilize at remunerative levels to safeguard the interests of rubber growers, who are now battling distressing conditions,” he added.

Earlier, in a pre-budget memorandum to Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, UPASI has said the domestic rubber plantation business is “gasping for breath under the impact of extremely un-remunerative prices” It also stated that “though international prices are low, unbridled imports, over and above the production, have hugely impacted domestic prices of natural rubber. Hence, a levy of safeguard duty on import of natural rubber is requested to protect the livelihood of small producers and keep intact its production capacity of the country.” 

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