Agriculture minister rules out increase in rubber support price

Agriculture minister rules out increase in rubber support price
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The state government has ruled out any increase in the support price of rubber, nor has it any plans to expand the scheme to rubber farmers who were not covered by the rubber price stabilisation scheme. As it stands, the support price is Rs 150 per kg. The demand, cutting across the political divide, was to increase it to Rs 200.

In 2017, agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar had said that the government would consider increasing the support price to Rs 200 after the Task Force constituted by the Centre submitted its report. Now that the task force has filed its report, and had backed a support price of Rs 200 a kg, the agriculture minister has rephrased his promise.

“The government would increase the support price if the Centre was ready to share a part of the increased support price,” Sunil Kumar said while responding to a Calling Attention motion moved by Kerala Congress (Mani) MLA Mons Joseph in the Assembly on Wednesday. The Centre has not shown any willingness to share the burden, the agriculture minister informed the Assembly. Incidentally, it was in response to another of Mons' Calling Attention in May, 2017, that the minister had promised to up the support price if the Task Force was for it.

The minister on Wednesday said that the Centre was not receptive to even the other major recommendations of the Task Force. “The report's main proposal was that rubber should be treated as an agricultural product, and not an industrial one. The Centre has not moved a finger. It is doing nothing to increase the low import tariffs of rubber either,” the minister said.

On Wednesday, Mons also asked the minister whether the Price Stabilisation Scheme, introduced during the UDF tenure, could be extended to cover more farmers. “At present only 4.5 lakh rubber farmers are getting the benefit of the scheme, leaving out over 5.5 lakh farmers,” Mons said. “At the same time, only 40 to 50 per cent of the Rs 500 crore earmarked for the scheme is utilised during a fiscal. Is it possible to use this unspent amount for the benefit of farmers left out of the scheme,” he added. The minister, however, did not respond to this.

Under the Rubber Production Incentive Scheme, the difference between Rs 150 and the daily price index fixed by the Rubber Board, called the daily reference price, would be granted as subsidy and submitted directly to the account of the farmers. Farmers having a total area of not more than five hectares of rubber cultivation can register under the scheme. The tapped area eligible for financial assistance will be limited to two hectares of rubber per applicant. Eligible financial assistance for each applicant will be limited to 1,800 kg per hectare per annum, which is also the estimated average productivity of rubber in the state.

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