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11. October 2005

INDIA: Sops mooted to improve rubber sheet quality

Source: Daily "The Hindu Business Line", New Delhi; 11 Oct 2005

Kochi , Oct. 10 THE Rubber Board has proposed a scheme to help rubber farmers improve quality of sheet rubber, aimed at boosting India's natural rubber exports, according to Mr Sajen Peter, Chairman of the board. "At today's high prices, we cannot ask for subsidies. So, we have to provide other means of support to the farmers," Mr Peter said at the 66th AGM of the Association of Planters of Kerala. He said the board had drafted some recommendations of support to help improve the quality of sheet rubber. "Small growers need help to maintain quality." He did not disclose details of the recommendations made to the Union Commerce Ministry. The board is of the view that if sheet rubber quality improves, it would lead to increase in natural rubber exports from the country and may, thereby, contain extreme price fluctuations in the domestic market. India's natural rubber exports peaked at 75,905 tonnes in 2003-04, but came down to 46,169 tonnes in 2004-05. In the current fiscal, the board expects the exports to touch 40,000 tonnes. One major reason cited by rubber industry experts for the fall in exports is the withdrawal of export subsidies given by the Government. In 2004-05, the Government had halved the subsidies from the previous year's rates, and withdrew it altogether in the current year. Mr Peter said if the country's rubber exports touched 80,000 tonnes over the next two years, a great deal of price volatility in the market could be checked. "The Rubber Board is planning to ensure a steady channel for exports. The public sector units (PSUs) in rubber industry have a major role to play in this regard." Meetings had already been held with Kerala Plantation Corporation, Rehabilitation Plantations, and other related PSUs, urging them to earmark a part of their annual production for exports, while the board will play the role of co-ordinator. Mr Peter also said the board would formulate a scheme to assist technically specified rubber (TSR) manufacturing units, currently numbering 50. "Most of these units are not properly functioning. They need support for modernisation and capacity building." In order to ensure that low-quality rubber is not dumped into India to influence local prices, the board will insist on continuing with the existing system of quality inspections. (Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)

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