Agartala, April 18 (IANS) The Rubber Board has proposed to double the existing natural rubber cultivation areas in the northeastern region during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), board chairman Sheela Thomas said here Thursday.
Currently, natural rubber is being cultivated in 113,685 hectares in the northeastern region, including 61,000 hectares in Tripura and 36,000 hectares in Assam, producing about 48,000 tonnes of natural rubber in 2010-11.
"The Rubber Board has proposed to double the existing natural rubber cultivation areas in the northeastern region during the 12th plan (2012-13 to 2016-2017) to boost rubber-based industries in India," Thomas told reporters.
She said: "To increase the productivity of natural rubber in the northeastern region, 13 new varieties are being developed. After successful field trials, we shall recommend the new clones (varieties) for mass cultivation."
Claiming that the rubber cultivation transforms the economy of thousands of people, including tribals, in the northeastern region, the Rubber Board chief said: "To increase the productivity, plantation of new trees to replace old trees and adequate training to the tappers, among other measures, are needed."
According to an earlier assessment of the Rubber Board, about 450,000 hectares may be available in the northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
"Northeastern India has extensive areas that are agro-climatically suitable for natural rubber cultivation," she added.
Thomas has said that the domestic production and consumption of natural rubber in India is increasing. "Sixty-five percent of the production of natural rubber is being used by the tyre industries," she said.
According to Thomas, India is now ranked first in rubber productivity (1,841 kg per hectare), second in consumption (971,000 tonnes per year), fourth in production (912,000 tonnes in 2012-13) and sixth in terms of area (0.79 million hectares) of rubber cultivation in the world.
According to an another Rubber Board official, the total cultivation area would rise to 986,000 hectares and production and consumption would go up to 1,583,000 tonnes and 1,731,000 tonnes respectively by 2024-25.
After Kerala (550,000 hectares), Tripura has the second-largest area under rubber cultivation in the country with 61,000 hectare in the state producing about 37,399 tonne of natural rubber in 2012-13 and earning Rs.600 crore annually.
In India, rubber is traditionally grown mostly in Kerala (for the past 110 years) and Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
The non-traditional lands fall mostly in the states of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, along the foothills of the Western Ghats, and to a smaller extent, along the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.