Concerned over steep fall in natural rubber prices, the Kerala government has decided to intervene and procure the produce directly from growers at remunerative rates.
Chief minister Oommen Chandy was speaking on the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday while responding to an adjournment notice of the opposition LDF.
Chandy said a meeting of the ministers and agencies such as Rubber Board, Nafed, Rubber Marketing and Marketfed would be held to work out the modalities of direct procurement. The state will also seek support from the Centre on the issue, he said.
"The government fully shared the anxieties of the opposition on the issue which affected not only big planters but hundreds of small-holders in the state," Chandy said.
Kerala accounts for nearly 90% of the country's rubber production. The import of rubber by industry, mainly by tyre makers, led to a fall in prices, he said adding Kerala should be consulted before deciding on the quantum and season of import.
Due to persistent intervention by the state, import duty on rubber increased to Rs 30 per kg, he said. Earlier, state finance minister K M Mani said the government was fully convinced of the impact of the 'indiscriminate' import of rubber by the industry, as a result price had fallen by Rs 100 per kg since last year. He said the state government's firm view was that the Centre should consult Kerala before taking any decision on rubber import and assured the opposition that adequate budgetary support would provided for the procurement scheme.
Raising the issue during zero hour, Suresh Kurup (CPI-M) squarely blamed the import policy of the Centre for the prevailing situation.
Citing statistics, he said the domestic production of rubber was around 9.16 lakh tonnes and the requirement of industry was estimated to be around 9.65 lakh tonnes, which means the deficit was quite narrow.
However, the actual quantum imported is much higher than the raw material requirement of the industry, Kurup said.
He also said the Centre's promise of including rubber in the protective list and enforcing quantitative restrictions had remained a writ in water.
He said if the state government continued its "passive attitude" on the issue, the price will hit the rock bottom soon.