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'Rubber cultivation in northeast vital to meet demand'

Agartala, Oct 30 : The Rubber Board has decided to expand cultivation of rubber in non-traditional areas of northeastern region to meet the increasing demand, an official said Thursday.

"The cultivation of rubber in Kerala is about to saturate. To meet the rising demand of rubber and overcome shortage, it is important to increase its cultivation in non-traditional areas," Rubber Board chairman A. Jayathilak told reporters here.

He said: "Because of its (rubber) growing demand, its productivity and areas under cultivation must be increased. Non-traditional areas are the only alternative for this."

Jayathilak, who came here to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of rubber plantation in Tripura, said the board has decided to cultivate rubber on 141,000 hectares of land in northeast.

About 103,500 hectares of land is under rubber cultivation in northeastern states including Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, producing 46,000 tonnes of rubber annually.

The Kottayam-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) has also identified 450,000 hectares of land suitable for its cultivation in the northeast.

India has 600,000 hectares of land under rubber plantations producing about 750,000 tonnes of rubber annually.

Tripura is the second largest rubber producer in the country after Kerala with 72,000 hectares of land under plantation, producing 40,000 tonnes of rubber annually. The state's annual turnover from rubber cultivation is about Rs.480 crore

India's second industrial rubber park has come up in Bodhungnagar in Tripura to boost the polymer industry.

The park, a joint venture between the Tripura Industrial Development Corporation and the Rubber Board, is the second of its kind in the country after the rubber park in Irapuram, Kerala.

To increase livelihood of poor people and small land holders, rubber can be cultivated with tea, pineapple, banana and other crops, said the chairman.

"The board has been persuading industrialists and investors to set up rubber-based industries in the northeast," he said, adding despite reduction of prices of rubber in the international market there is no effect on rubber cultivation in India.

RRII director James Jacob said the climate in northeast is most suitable for rubber cultivation.

"The RRII has developed exclusive rubber clone suitable for the northeastern region to increase the production and productivity," Jacob said.