Economic Emancipation Through Rubber
The North-East region known for natural vegetation with its flora and fauna is going towards a better and sustainable future. People are now shifting to rubber cultivation, leaving behind their traditional Jhum cultivation. Rubber cultivation in North-East and particularly in Tripura is yielding a better life for the people, and also contributing Rs 600 crore to the state’s economy, is a mark of great economic revolution for North-east, in particular Tripura.
Rubber is a versatile strategic raw material. Its demand in both, domestic and global market has been growing faster. The South-West coastal region of India, which is the traditional rubber belt, has reached saturation level in area coverage and therefore now the North-East India is emerging as one of the most important rubber-growing zones outside the traditional belt .If we go by records of last few years, results are very optimistic. Now it’s onto the people of North-East India and the government to leave no stones unturned to seize this unique opportunity for economic emancipation.
Rubber In India
European planters introduced commercial cultivation of rubber in 1902 at Thattakad in the erstwhile Travancore state. It has been traditionally cultivated since then, largely in Kerala and Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu, which receive abundant precipitation from both the south-west and north-east monsoons. Non-traditional areas found suitable for rubber cultivation despite varying degrees of limitations are hinterland of coastal Karnataka, Goa, Konkan region of Maharashtra, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Siliguri area of West Bengal and the low elevation regions of the North-eastern states excluding Sikkim.
Rubber in North-East India
As a soil conservation initiative, in degraded forestland of Tripura, large scale plantations of rubber commenced in the North-East in 1963. Soil conservation departments of Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam took to planting rubber near about the same time. Low elevation regions of the North-East, with the sole exception of Sikkim, with near tropical climatic features soon emerged as the principal rubber growing zone, with Tripura turning out to be the second largest rubber growing state in India.
Rubber in Tripura
Rubber plantation was started for the first time in Tripura in 1963 by the State Forest Department. In 1967, Rubber Board opened its first (one-man) office in Agartala . Tripura Forest Development & Plantation Corporation Ltd. (TFDPC), a state government undertaking, established in 1976, adopted rehabilitation of degraded forests through rubber plantation as its primary objective. The state government transferred 10,000 ha of degraded forestland on a long-term lease to TFDPC for raising rubber plantation. Rubber board upgraded its one-man set up at Agartala to a regional office in 1979 for extension and training, by now the probability of rubber cultivation in Tripura started to confirm.
Realizing the scope of rubber cultivation in the state, the state government started to take up measure to rehabilitate, the people through rubber cultivation. Government machinery is being used to promote rubber and the process is on.
Talking to Uday India, Ajit Sukladas, who is the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Kailashahar, said “Rubber is evolving as a very important cash crop in the state, earlier we had to approach people to educate them how to cultivate rubber and where to market, but now the people themselves have developed skills in the cultivation of rubber because with rubber, people are changing their life.”
Mr. Sukladas, who was earlier associated with Rubber Research Station, Ministry of Commerce, also said “The quality of rubber cultivated here in Tripura is of best and export quality, and after extracting the liquid rubber from the rubber tree for a period of 5 to 6 years, the rubber wood is now used for manufacturing best quality furniture and now all government offices have rubber wood furniture in the state.”
Rubber wood: TFDPC commissioned a Rubber Timber Processing Unit in 1999 at Negicherra near Agartala, with financial assistance from the Indian Council for Forest Research & Education. Its capacity was gradually increased from 500 cu m per annum to the current level of 2000 cu m. Treated rubber wood from the unit has a ready market now and the demand has been rising. A furniture manufacturing facility was set up in the unit and it has been producing high-end as well as utility furniture for schools on a fairly large-scale. A
common facility centre for automatic semi knock down furniture for producing world-class furniture is now on
Now, in Tripura every household prefers cultivation of rubber and therefore the price of land in the state is increasing day by day. The rubber cultivator, who initially doesn’t have their own land to cultivate now have their own lands to cultivate round the year. Initially, they took land on lease for a period of one year from rich farmers and after one year they paid the actual price of the land thereby owning the land for lifetime.
Gridhari, is one such Rubber Cultivator who while speaking to Uday India said “The profit is very good. I am very happy now as Rubber has given us a new standard of life, one tree of rubber daily gives us Rs 50 and we have almost 50 trees. My children are educated and well established now. I have seen hardship during my young days, but now I can dream big because of rubber.”
Rubber has now attained the status of the most important plantation crop in Tripura not merely because of its commercial success, but more so due to its innovative application for economic rehabilitation of shifting cultivators. Rubber cultivation has delivered generally a degree of success in a manner hitherto not experienced in any rehabilitation package on un-arable uplands.
Productivity: Productivity rose from 200 to 300 kilogram per ha per annum during 1970s to the present average of 1000 kg plus per ha per annum against the national average of 1879 kg. Some better-managed plantations in the state have reached production of 1800 kg per ha per annum. Around 35000 ha will be under tapping five years hence with an annual production of upwards of 35000 MT of raw rubber in the state.
Tripura Rubber Mission: Nodal Agency for Rubber Sector in Tripura
Tripura Rubber Mission (Mission) was constituted in January 2006, by the Government of Tripura as an inter-departmental coordinating body headed by Dr. VK Bahuguna, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Tripura, with the object to increase the coverage under rubber cultivation in Tripura to 85,094 ha during 2006-07 to 2025-26 and to ensure scientific management of rubber plantation for sustainable development. The Mission has the mandate for planning and coordination and to organise funding, capacity building and monitoring to achieve the Mission target.
Agro-climatic requirement for Rubber cultivation
General: Commercial rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis grows wild in the Amazon basin and adjacent areas of Brazil. Important climatic requirements within the tropics for commercial cultivation of rubber generally are well-distributed high rainfall with no pronounced droughts; mild and short winter, high humidity and free from strong and prolonged seasonal winds.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Agartala