Natural rubber (NR) import in 2013-14 rose 49 per cent in 2013-14 over the previous year, 324,467 tonnes as compared to 217,364 tonnes in 2012-13, show provisional figures from the Rubber Board. It is the first time the import crossed 300,000 tonnes in a year; it is also a rise of a little over 100,000 tonnes in only 12 months. In March alone, the final month of the financial year, import rose 144 per cent over a year before, the highest ever in any 30-day period. In March, import was 24,196 tonnes; it was 9,921 tonnes in March 2013. This huge increase was mainly due to the price advantage in markets abroad, over the past year. The average price in a major market such as Bangkok was less by Rs 15-17/kg than in India throughout FY14.
According to the Board data, production in 2013-14 was down 7.6 per cent, at 844,000 tonnes compared to 913,700 tonnes in FY13. This was the first dip in NR annual output over the past decade.
Earlier, the Board had twice scaled down the original production estimate for FY14, once from 960,000 tonnes to 870,000 tonnes and further to 850,000 tonnes. Even the finally revised estimate could not be achieved.
|Figures in tonnes unless indicated; Source: Rubber Board. 2013-14 figures are provisional|
And, against the 7.6 per cent fall in production during 2013-14, consumption edged up 0.5 per cent. For March, this increase was 10.3 per cent. India consumed 977,400 tonnes of rubber in FY14, as against 972,705 tonnes in 2012-13. Nor is an upswing in production expected in this financial year. The gap between local production and demand, estimates the Board, would be 133,400 tonnes.
This could widen in the coming years, since a sharp upward swing is seen in the case of consumption but output is likely to remain much as it is or even drop.
The reason is older trees in at least 30 per cent of plantations. Efforts for replanting haven’t been a success. The Board says farmers aren’t cooperating. Also, the increase in sowing area has been negligible.
Still, the Board says there a stock of 250,000 tonnes. Other stakeholders, including the consuming industries, say they refuse to believe this, pointing to the domestic shortage.
The board’s latest data also indicates an 82 per cent fall in exports, 5,381 tonnes in FY14 as against 30,594 tonnes in the previous year. Barely 16 tonnes went out in March this year, as compared to 7,823 tonnes of export in March 2013.