Under the "NE-MITRA" project, at least two lakh hectares of land would be brought under natural rubber (NR) cultivation in seven northeastern states with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore to meet the country's growing demand for NR, Rubber Board chairman Sawar Dhanania said on Wednesday.
He said that the northeastern states including Assam and Tripura, currently cultivate rubber in around two lakh hectares of land and annually produce 1.12 lakh tonne natural rubber.
Dhanania, who is in Tripura for the past four days and holding meetings with various stakeholders and state government officials, said that India is now producing 7 lakh MT of natural rubber against the requirement of 12.50 MT. "To meet the domestic requirement of natural rubber, the country needs to expand the rubber cultivation in more traditional and non-traditional areas," he told the media. He added that four tyre manufacturing companies would invest Rs 1,100 crore to undertake rubber plantation over an additional 2,00,000 hectares in northeast India in the next five years and the mission has already started. The Rubber Board has identified a vast stretch of land in the northeast region and West Bengal for rubber cultivation.
To a question, he said that inter-cropping in the rubber gardens and rubber cultivating areas is increasing with various other crops being produced.
Beekeeping (or apiculture) is also a viable scheme in the natural rubber cultivable areas. Referring to his meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha, he said that to build up infrastructure, the state government would invest Rs 500 crore.
Claiming that rubber cultivation is most eco-friendly, he said that rubber trees consume maximum carbon dioxide from the air and release maximum oxygen to nature. "After 30 years, furniture with longevity was manufactured from the old rubber trees in the south Indian states and in Tripura. In the coming years, many more factories to make furniture from rubber trees are coming up in the country," Dhanania said.
Another senior Rubber Board official said that the area under natural rubber in the country in 2021-22 was 826,660 hectares and the tappable area under rubber was 718,800 hectares in 2021-22, only 526,500 hectares (73.2 per cent) has contributed to the NR production during the year. The average yield, measured in terms of production per hectare of the tapped area, increased to 1,472 kg per hectare in 2021-22 from 1,442 kg/ha in the previous year.India consumed 1,238,000 MT of NR in 2021-22, an increase of 12.9 per cent from the 1,096,410 MT consumed in 2020-21.
At present, Tripura, which is the second largest NR producing state in the country after Kerala, is cultivating natural rubber on 89,264 hectare of land and annually producing 93,371 tonnes of rubber, worth Rs 1691 crore. About two lakh families, including tribals, are directly and indirectly associated with rubber cultivation in Tripura.
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