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Rubber Plantations crawling up in Maharashtra

India is the third largest natural rubber producing country of the world and Kerala accounts for 68 per cent of planted area and 78 per cent of rubber production. Tripura (7.8 per cent) and Karnataka 5.2 per cent) lag far behind and somehow Maharashtra is also preparing to enter its name in the Rubber producing areas. Sindhudurg is the neighbouring district of Goa in Maharastra and is well connected by all means of transportation, NH 17 is few kms away, Kankavli Railway station is adjacent and  the commercial capital of India, Mumbai is 500 km away. The place has great slopes of Western ghats and has climate similar to that of Kerala’s.

Till the late 1990s, rubber plantations were confined to Goa, but they then started moving into the Konkan region. For rubber, Sindhudurg is a non-traditional area for cultivation, but in recent years many Kerala-based planters have been buying land pieces of about 5-10 acres. There are a handful of large planters with more than 2,000 acres. Land cost in Kerala is relatively high, while the land in Sindhudurg is fertile and the topography is similar to the southern State. The labour costs are also as lowered as is ₹200 per day  whereas in Kerala, a rubber tapper gets ₹600 as daily wages; in Tripura it is about ₹120. Also in Kerala, there are additional costs such as the State agriculture income tax, which other States don’t levy.

Expenses like these have urged the planters to move from Kerala and locate themselves to a much financially viable place as Sindhudurg. But the Maharashtra government has no scheme to promote rubber in Sindhudurg. The administration discourages rubber plantations, and instead promotes spices, which are more suited to the local agro-climatic conditions. Also, government is wary of the environmental impact of the ‘exotic, non-native’ crop  of Sindhudurg, in the Sahyadri Hills.

 



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