The Rubber Board has indentified Assam as a” potential state” to “replicate the Tripura success story” and plans to bring 2 lakh hectares area under rubber plantation in the state in near future. It has a set a target to bring at least 12,500 hectares area under rubber plantation in Assam and 35,000 hectares in North East in the 12th five year plan.
Sustained effort from the state government and the Rubber Board had made Tripura, a left ruled state in North East, the second largest producer of natural rubber in India within a short span. The rubber success story helped the state bring down militancy drastically over the years.
If Rubber Board officials are to be believed, Assam can overtake Tripura within next 10 years or so, if a sustained effort is being made.
“We have seen that the agro-climatic conditions of Assam and North East are suitable for rubber plantation. What has happened in Tripura can also happen in Assam and North East. We are going to be focussed on North East in the next 4-5 years,” said Sheela Thomas, Chairperson of Rubber Board.
Tripura has shown that rubber can be very remunerative employment for the people, “if there is a whole hearted effort from the government”, Thomas said.
She added that “productivity wise” too Assam “huge scope” for rubber plantation.
Citing Kerala’s example, Thomas, however, cautioned that agricultural land should not be converted into rubber plantations as that would then lead to food scarcity in the state.
AK Krishna Kumar, Executive Director of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS), who has been very instrumental in helping Tripura script the rubber success story, suggested the Assam government to launch a Rubber Mission, similar to one launched in the neighbouring state, for promoting rubber plantation in a focussed way. Researches are presently underway by the Rubber Board to develop a rubber clone exclusively for the North Eastern states.
As per figures provided by the Rubber Board, Assam has 28,102 hectares of land under rubber plantation currently, against its potential of 2 lakh hectares.
Tripura on the other hand, has 55,415 hectares of land under plantation as against its potential of 1 lakh hectares.
The land under rubber plantation in Kerala, which is the largest rubber producing state in India, is 5,25,408 hectares.
With demand for natural rubber growing fast, the deficit between availability and supply too is widening, prompting the Rubber Board to look for suitable areas for plantation.
Presently, India’s rubber industry turnover is around Rs. 4,500 crore and the demand is expected to touch 1.78 lakh MT by 2025.