The rubber is a flexible industrial raw material for many rubber based industries. There are more than 50,000 products make from rubber. We use varieties of rubber products in every steps of our daily life. Counting from Hawai chapel, boots, shoe, tube-tyre, surgical gloves, door mate, swing gums, wire, vehicles parts etc numerous rubber products or parts we used are the source of rubber. But you may think that from where this significant raw material is obtained? There are two sources of rubber, one extracted from petroleum, called synthetic rubber and another from tree Hevea brasiliensis, called natural rubber. Varieties of clone derived from Hevea are used for rubber cultivation. So rubber can also be obtained from tree. But it was remain mystery till late 19th century, natural rubber was entirely collected from wild forests, especially in South and Central America. It was introduced to tropical Asia and Africa by the efforts of the British Government during the later part of 19th century. The tree is now grown in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa and South America.
Although rubber is widely used as raw materials in rubber base industries, but there are nine countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Cambodia, can produce natural rubber in the world. India is also one of among them and climbed into sixth position in the world. India have 7, 96,000 ha. rubber area till the year 2014-15. Average yield per hector was 1,576 kg/annum in India and produced 7, 04,500 tones from its 4, 47,000 ha. matured (productive) rubber area in the year 2014-15. There are only few states contain suitable land for rubber cultivation in India. Apart from few south Indian states, all the states of northeast India except Sikkim, possessed more or less suitable land for rubber cultivation. In south India, Kerala, some parts of Tamilnadu, and some area of Odisha, Andaman Nicombar and Goa suitable for rubber cultivation. As per the official record of Rubber Board India, there is about 4.5 lakh hector area potential for rubber cultivation in northeast India. Assam has two lakh hector suitable land for natural rubber cultivation. As per record, about 50000 ha. land already covered by natural rubber in Assam and becomes third largest rubber planted state in India. Tripura contain one lakh ha. land suitable for rubber cultivcation and about 75,000 ha. area already planted and becomes second largest natural rubber planting states in India. It is very miraculous that commercial use of rubber in India was started in Assam in 1798. Long before the introduction of the Para rubber in India and other South East Asian Countries, indigenous rubber yielding trees, Assam rubber were tapped on a commercial scale in Assam. But the organized attempts of rubber planting were initiated by government agencies during the 1960 in some northeast states. The first large scale rubber planting started by Tripura government in 1963. The Soil Conservation Department of Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam also started planting during the same period. A public sector undertaking, Tripura Forest Development and Plantation Corporation Ltd. was formed in 1976. The Soil Conservation and Forest Department in other states also took up rubber planting during that period.
Till the year 2013-14 about 1.5 lakh ha. area planted by natural rubber in northeast India. Assam has planted about 48,000 ha.; Tripura 75,000 ha.; Meghalaya 14,000 ha., Mizoram 2,000 ha.; Arunachal Pradesh 4,500 ha.; Nagaland 12,000 ha. and Manipur 5,000 ha. till the year 2014-15. The annual production of natural rubber in northeast India was 63,690 tonnes in 2013-14 and approximate value of earning was Rs. 650 crore. There are about 2 lakh small holdings with an average 0.80 ha. land of rubber plantation and more than one lakh manpower has been engaged in the natural rubber plantation sector in the region. There are about three lakh ha. potential land yet to be planted and having immense scope to generate 02 lakh employment opportunities and about Rs. 4,500 crore annual income in a year from natural rubber plantation in northeast India in coming years.
Production of natural rubber in northeast states is increased along with the increase of extension of rubber cultivation. There was total 38,600 tonnes rubber produced in 2009-10 and it grows up to 64,000 tonnes in 2013-14. Tripura has alone produced 25080 tonnes in 2009-10 and it’s reached 39,000 tonnes in 2013-14. The production of natural rubber was 7,071 tonnes in Assam during the period of 2009-10 and it’s reached 13,600 tonnes in 2013-14. Meghalaya has produced 4,545 tonnes in 2009-10 and it’s reached 7,570 tonnes in 2013-14. Production of other northeast states was 1,904 tonnes in 2009-10 and it’s raised up to 3,520 tonnes in 2013-14.
The prices of dry rubber are fluctuating according to the policy of domestic and international rubber market. During the period of 2009-10, average market price of 100 kg RSS-4 dry rubber was Rs. 11,498.00 in India and during the period about Rs.266.29 crore entered into farmer’s pockets in northeast region. The price was growing up to Rs. 20,805.00 till 2011-12 in per 100 kg and recorded the highest price hiked in natural rubber history. Then northeast rubber farmers were able to earn about Rs. 630 crore during the period of price hiked. But the price has grown down to Rs.17682.00 per 100 kg in 2012-13 and it’s again decreased to Rs. 16,602.00 in 2013-14.
Northeast region is considered as one the most favourable zone for natural rubber cultivation. This zone already been identified that about 4.5 lakh ha land suitable for rubber cultivation. Out of this figure only 1.5 ha land covered by rubber cultivation. There are about 2 lakh small holdings having an average 0.80 ha. rubber plantation. There are more than one lakh manpower are engaged directly or indirectly in natural rubber plantation sector in northeast India.
If the remaining suitable land will cover by natural rubber plantation in the region, there are immense opportunities for employment and the strengthening of rural economy in future. In northeast region, about three lakh ha. suitable land still not using for natural rubber cultivation. If this size of land will wrap up by natural rubber plantation, there is vast opportunity to resolve permanently about 3.5 lakh families and more than two lakh manpower can be engaged in natural rubber plantation sector. And there is a great extent to bring approximate value Rs. 4,500 crore annually to the farmer’s hand.
It has been noticed that the farmers of remote villages of Northeast region pay no attention to about any modern technologies move into farming sectors. Besides this, they are very poor in conditions and they cannot procure required materials for the improvement of their traditional farming mechanism. Jhuming is their traditional cultivation practice and even now a major portion of hilly tribal’s they are practicing jhum cultivation. But due to the rapid increase of human population, over exploitation of forest produces, un-scientific use of land and some others issues farmers are demotivated towards the farming activities. So cultivation of natural rubber can be suggested for the farmers for sustainable livelihood. Government may be taken a long term plan and vision for the scientific expansion of natural rubber cultivation in potential zones. The Rubber Board India, central government organisation was set up for the all-round development in natural rubber plantation sector. A group of enthusiastic staff of Rubber Board, Indian rubber plantation sector today reached in a pleasing position and make India almost self sufficient of its need. But as per the farmer’s require, this organization needs more empowerment, facilities and financial support from the central government. Recently this Board is under sky-scraping stress of financial catastrophe. Owing to inference of fund by the central government, many plantation development schemes more or less fall down. The marginal farmers who will be needed little financial support from government now onward will be deprived from it. Many marginal farmers need financial supports from the board and the schemes were the key motivational strategy towards the rubber growers since the Board’s formed. But unexpectedly falling down the existing policy will harm to the farmers. Prime minister of India has taken hundreds of schemes for the development of northeast India, but how this potential sector is deleted from his list rather surprised to the farmers. If expansion of rubber cultivation and development can include as a part of prime minister “Make in India” project, surely it will be unbeaten development in rural areas of the region which will promote proper engagement of manpower, employment and setting-up of rubber base industries.