Centre richer by Rs 1,890 crore via rubber imports

KOCHI: At a time when the rubber growers are slowing recovering from the fall in prices, the Central Government has made an unexpected gain of Rs 1,890 crore by way of various duties from the import of 4.5 lakh MT of natural rubber (NR) during the recent fiscals, according to Indian Farmer’s Movement (Infam).

The Centre exchequer benefits from 25 per cent import duty, 3 per cent Central excise duty, 3 per cent Customs cess and 4 per cent counter-veiling duty, adding to a total of 35 per cent duty for rubber imports, it stated.

The import of NR touched 458,374 tonnes in 2015-16, before declining to 426,434 tonnes in 2016-17.
“On the one hand, the Kerala government is ensuring the farmers get Rs150/kg while on the other, the Centre gets additional around Rs 2,000 crore through imports, which in turn affects the domestic demand for the rubber,” said MC George, national trustee of Infam.

He said the Centre should at least use a part of the proceeds from the rubber imports for helping rubber farmers. The ‘Grow in India’ programme will be the casualty as natural rubber growers are exploited by both the industry and the rulers in the country.

“If there are no benefits, growers will stop cultivation and the country will be forced to import its full requirement,” George said.

An officer with the state Finance Department said despite the cash crunch, the state government has been providing rubber farmers with an assured Rs 150/kg by paying the shortfall in the market price. “We have the used entire Rs 500 crore provided in the budget for the rubber price stabilisation scheme. The money is directly credited in the bank accounts and, it’s functioning smoothly,” the officer said.

In 2013-14, Kerala produced around 90 per cent of the country’s NR needs – the state produced 9 lakh MT when the consumption stood at 10 lakh MT. Following the fall in prices, the production has fallen to 6 lakh MT, Infam said.

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