Guwahati: Four leading tyre makers will invest Rs 1,100 crore to increase rubber plantation in Northeast and West Bengal as part of a five-year project being implemented by the Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA) in association with the Rubber Board.
Talking to PTI in Guwahati on Friday, Rubber Board executive director KN Raghavan said there is a huge demand-supply gap of natural rubber in India and the country highly is dependent on the import of the commodity.
“Against India’s consumption of 12.3 lakh tonnes of natural rubber in 2021-22, the domestic production stood at 7.7 lakh tonnes. It is estimated that the demand of natural rubber will grow to 20 lakh tonnes by 2030,” he said.
The country imported 5.46 lakh tonnes of rubber, mainly from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), resulting in an outgo of Rs 7,500 crore during the last fiscal, Raghavan said.
“On this backdrop, the ATMA came forward to increase domestic production of natural rubber. After a discussion among the stakeholders, we decided to launch a special scheme in Northeast India as it holds immense potential for rubber plantation due to availability of land and suitable climatic conditions,” he added.
Apollo Tyres, CEAT, JK Tyre and MRF together pledged Rs 1,100 crore over the next five years as a “business investment” to increase rubber plantation in seven states of the region and West Bengal, ATMA chairman Satish Sharma said.
“This is the first of its kind project in the world where the consuming industry is working in collaboration with government agencies to ramp up production of natural rubber to increase availability of this strategic raw material,” he added.
As part of the project, ATMA plans to develop two lakh hectares of rubber plantation in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and West Bengal.
The industry body transported 55 lakh planting materials from Kerala to Northeast during the last one year despite huge logistical challenges, said Sharma, the whole-time director of Apollo Tyres.
When asked if the natural rubber produced under this scheme will cater to only the tyre industry, he said: “No, it will not. Though we four companies have put in money, the output will be for the entire rubber industry.”
The country produces 7.75 lakh tonnes of natural rubber every year, of which 73 per cent is consumed by the automotive tyre segment. The rest goes to cycle tyres, conveyor belts, balloons, condoms and footwear, among others.
Raghavan said, “At present Northeastern states contribute 18 per cent of the production. Once additional two lakh hectares of rubber plantation under the scheme is achieved, Northeast’s share is estimated to increase up to 32 per cent.”
The region, which currently produces around 1.5 lakh tonnes of natural rubber from existing two lakh hectares of plantation, is likely to produce six lakh tonnes by 2032, the Rubber Board executive director said.
The project will boost the socio-economic conditions as farmers with land holdings of less than one acre are being engaged at present, he said.
“Plantation of two lakh hectares will therefore directly benefit nearly 2.5 lakh farmers and their families. We are approaching the village heads, who are identifying such lands for the project,” Raghavan said.
Training and skill development is a major component of the project and involves creating infrastructure for training facilities, and conducting training programmes for farmers and tappers on best practices and technologies, he added.
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