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Draft Rubber Policy: Budgetary support for promotion of export, research, reducing imports

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New Delhi, Feb 25 (PTI) The government will provide budgetary support to rubber sector to enhance research, promote exports and reduce dependence on import, according to the draft national rubber policy. The proposed policy will also provide support for skill development; incentives for smallholders, workers and entrepreneurs; and enforcement of regulations on quality and standards. For all these measures, proportionate budgetary provisions would be made, the draft said. As per the draft policy, possibility would be explored for treating natural rubber as an agricultural product for all practical and legal purposes, it said. The policy will also explore the possibility of treating income from rubber production as agricultural income, in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare. The draft said the budgetary support from the central government would focus on new plantation and replanting. "Appropriate convergence and dovetailing of funds with other programmes of departments/ministries of the central and state governments such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment (MGNREGA), would be attempted," it added. The 27-page draft said financial assistance is vital in motivating growers to take up rubber cultivation. "Adequate planting subsidy would be given for incentivising rubber plantation. Priority would be given to marginal and small growers belonging to the resource poor communities," it added. The commerce ministry has come up with this draft policy seeking views of stakeholders. The objectives of the policy include promoting overall sustainability of the rubber lndustry with respect to economic, social and environmental dimensions, development of entire value chain from upstream production to downstream manufacturing activities. Besides, the policy aims to increase the area under natural rubber by new plantation without causing any adverse impact on forests. The draft has also suggested several policy interventions such as providing insurance cover for the growth of the sector. It said the import policy for natural rubber would be accorded special focus as imports have impact on both growers and end-user industries. Natural rubber is not a traditional export-oriented commodity and export may be promoted only to adjust temporary demand-supply imbalances in the domestic market, it added. The draft said "the price volatility in rubber crop directly impacts livelihood of lakhs of small and marginal growers and efforts would be made to ensure the livelihood protection by way of insurance/price support in consonance with the prevailing norms and policies". It also said the possibility of extending exclusive financial assistance schemes for grower forums for processing and trading in rubber would be explored in consultation with NABARD. "Introducing auction for rubber trading in the country would be attempted for fair price discovery," it said. Most of the rubber products, including tyres, require blends of natural rubber and synthetic rubber. India is currently the sixth largest producer of natural rubber in the world with one of the highest productivity (6,94,000 tonne in 2017-18). Kerala and Tamil Nadu account for 81 per cent of the total natural rubber production in India. The other states include Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal. India is the second largest consumer of natural rubber globally with current consumption of around 1.1 million tonne. Of this, 68 per cent is consumed in the automotive tyre sector. There are around 1.3 million rubber growers and 0.6 million workers in rubber plantation sector in India. Around 40 per cent of the domestic consumption is met from imports. PTI RR ANU ANU

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