Agartala: To meet India's growing demand for natural rubber, the government is giving greater impetus to rubber cultivation in areas like Tripura, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said. Tripura is the second largest rubber producer in the country after Kerala.
"To meet domestic demands, India has been importing rubber. Therefore, the government has been giving greater impetus (to) rubber cultivation in areas like Tripura," Sitharaman told IANS.
"It is a matter of consideration how rubber cultivation can be expanded in the forest and other areas without affecting the natural balance."
The minister said while implementation of the forest rights act and providing "patta" (land rights) to the tribals, the issue of rubber cultivation must be given importance.
Sitharaman, who came here Tuesday, inaugurated a "border haat" at Srinagar in southern Tripura, about 140 km south of Agartala.
"If the tribals willing to cultivate rubber, provision of their livelihood has to be made as the gestation period of production in the rubber plantation is seven years," the union minister said.
She said as Tripura was now in a prominent place in rubber cultivation, the central government would provide all kinds of support to the state government and rubber growers.
India's northeastern states are categorised as non-traditional areas for rubber cultivation.
About 103,500 hectares of land is under rubber cultivation in northeastern states, including Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
The region produces 46,000 tonnes of rubber annually.
The Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India has identified 450,000 hectares of land suitable for rubber cultivation in the region.
India has 600,000 hectares of land under rubber plantations, producing about 750,000 tonnes of rubber annually.
Tripura is the second largest rubber producer in India after Kerala with 72,000 hectares of land under plantation, producing 40,000 tonnes of rubber annually.
Tripura's annual turnover from rubber cultivation is about Rs.480 crore.
India's second industrial rubber park has come up in Tripura's Bodhungnagar area to boost the polymer industry.
The park, a joint venture between the Tripura Industrial Development Corporation and the Rubber Board, is the second of its kind in the country after the rubber park in Kerala's Irapuram.
"To increase livelihood of poor people and small land holders, rubber can be cultivated with tea, pineapple, banana and other crops," Rubber Board chairman A. Jayathilak told IANS here.
"The board has been persuading industrialists and investors to set up rubber-based industries in the northeast," he said, adding despite reduction of prices of rubber in the international market there is no effect on rubber cultivation in India.
He said the climate and soil in northeastern states are most suitable for rubber cultivation.