The Kerala government has provided lockdown exemption for rubber plantations involved in latex processing and production of rubber and surgical gloves.
A decision to this effect was taken based on the request to allow the factories involved in latex processing and production of rubber/surgical gloves as they produce essential commodities required in tackling the spread of Covid-19. These factories can transport latex barrels to and from the plantations to factories so that the supply is assured.
They are also allowed to bring in required numbers of such barrels along with ammonia and other preservatives needed for such transportation of field latex to factories. Permission is also granted to the rubber plantations with maximum 25 per cent of staff strength during the lockdown period.
According to KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board, the nod to operate glove-making units would lead to a gradual resumption of tapping and processing of rubber sheets, especially among small and marginal growers. The latex so tapped by such growers is collected by rubber producers’ societies and then transported to latex processing units for centrifuging, and from there to glove-making units.
Gradual opening of sector
He pointed out that around 80 per cent of the rubber production in the country is from Kerala and the adjoining Kanyakumari. Allowing full-fledged tapping and sheet processing would not help by itself, until the industry commences operations and starts consuming the sheets so produced. In these circumstances, a gradual opening of the sector is proposed so that financial distress felt by small and marginal growers is mitigated while ensuring the production of gloves which are required for combating the pandemic, he said.
Similarly, activities involving rain-guarding have been allowed to be carried out so that tapping can continue without hindrance during the monsoon months as well, he added.
Raghavan also clarified that the fall in production would not lead to a scarcity of the commodity, even as both production and consumption have been hit by the lockdown. The fall in demand from the consuming sector would be far more than the fall in production. Moreover, 70 per cent of the natural rubber consumed in the country is by tyre manufacturers, who keep a stock of about six weeks’ requirements.
“Hence it is reiterated that there exist no grounds for any apprehensions regarding the scarcity of natural rubber in the Indian market on account of this lockdown,” he added.