When India's rubber capital Kerala witnessed a 10 to 20% fall in terms of rubber prices due to the COVID19 pandemic, the second largest rubber growing state, Tripura hardly experienced any negative impact on rubber production or pricing due to certain specific reasons.
While natural rubber production and prices have been hit hard by the pandemic induced lockdown in Kerala (with prices of various grades falling by 10 to 20% in the May/August period) it was precisely the other way round in Tripura.
Though tapping of rubber was stopped for 26 days from March 25th to April 19th due to the COVID 19 induced lockdown, it had no (or very little) negative impact on production or in the livelihood system of the tappers. "This is because most of the growers have small land holdings and they themselves tap the rubber," an official of the Rubber Board of Tripura informed.
"The rubber growers in Tripura mostly have small land holdings. There are almost 70,000 rubber growers, who themselves tap the rubber latex. Their individual land size is around two hectares. Now as the growers/entrepreneurs are also tappers, they had no problem working in their own fields during the lockdown. They made rubber sheets from the latex and stored it in their homes during the lockdown days," field officer of the board, Shyamal Sen stated.
Laxmipati of village Koiadepha, about 25 kms from Agartala grows rubber in two hectares of land. Speaking to Fit Northeast, he said, "I have worked in my own garden during the lockdown, collected latex and converted it to rubber sheets that were stored at home. When vehicles started plying after the lockdown I sold those products and earned a good profit," he shared.
April to May is considered as a lean period for rubber growers as that is the period for defoliation and the lockdown had coincided with this very period.April to May is considered as a lean period for rubber growers as that is the period for defoliation and the lockdown had coincided with this very period. "This had made things better for rubber growers in Tripura who were anyway not badly affected," Laxmipati shares.
"When the vehicular movement started after the lockdown the growers could sell rubber sheets without any hassle," he stated adding that the price had picked up from June onwards and the growers could sell their products much more easily from that month.
According to industry sources, owing to the even distribution of rainfall this year, the scale of rubber production was very high and the price for one kg of rubber (sheet) rose from Rs 100 to Rs 120. It was a 20% hike.
There are almost one lakh rubber growers in the state, who grow rubber across sixty five thousand hectares of land. There is no big planter of rubber trees. The growers are tappers (in Tripura) and the numbers of tappers, who work on the basis of daily wages are less.
Chief Minister of Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb recently stated, "Our government is giving a lot of importance to rubber production. We want to produce more rubber, which is of good quality." Deb said that many items are now exported to foreign countries, including neighboring Bangladesh. "We get maximum profit from rubber. About Rs 1,400 crore is earned from rubber export," he summed