GUWAHATI, Oct 26 – The Northeast is emerging as the rubber hub of India as experts believe that large-scale cultivation of the crop there can meet the shortfall in supply against rising demand.
Traditionally, rubber is grown in the southern States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but increase in its demand for the crop has resulted in search for other regions where its cultivation can be pursued.
Rubber plantation has not expanded to the desired extent in States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra and Orissa where climatic condition supports its growing.
“We beleive that now we have to look to the Northeast to produce more natural rubber,” KG Mohanan, Additional Rubber Production Commissioner of the Rubber Board, said.
A search was launched and it culminated in attempts by the board to grow rubber in the States of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, he says.
“Though the agro-climatic condition prevailing in some parts of the region is moderately suitable for planting rubber, it has been proven through experimental plantation that under appropriate agro-management practices, the commodity can be grown as an economcally viable crop,” Mohanan said.
As per reports, the Soil Conservation Department of Assam planted rubber in the state as early as 1950s and the first commercial planting of rubber was done by Tripura’s Forest Department in 1963.
Encouraged by the success of pilot plantations, the Tripura government had set up the Tripura Forest Development Plantation Corporation Limited (TFDPC) in 1970, while seven years later, the government there launched a pilot scheme for economic settlement of tribals displaced because of rubber farming.
Mohanan says substantial progress in rubber plantation in the region was achieved during the 7th Plan, when the Centre sanctioned a scheme for Accelerated Rubber Development in the Northeast.
Exploratory surveys done by the board in the past indicated that a total of 4,50,000 hectares of land in the region is suitable for rubber plantation.
Another positive aspect is that the region is generally free from the major plant diseases that are prevalent in the traditional belt and soil is sufficiently ‘deep’ and easy to work, he said.
“However, proper care has to be taken in selecting land as water-logging and erosion are a common problem,” he observed.
Rubber planting helps in socio-economic development of the rural people and has proven to be an effective programme for economic settlement of tribals.
Scientifically raised rubber plantations provide a green leguminous ground cover and a green umbrella cover. They purify the atmosphere and improve soil properties, he said. – PTI