Agartala - The Rubber Board and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are conducting satellite imagery surveys to discover potential areas of natural rubber cultivation in India, an official said here Friday.
"The year-long satellite-based imagery study being conducted jointly by the Rubber Board, ISRO and RRII (Rubber Research Institute of India), a wing of the Rubber Board, is firstly being done in Tripura," additional rubber production commissioner K.G. Mohanan told reporters.
He said: "After getting the outcome of the survey, expected to be known in two months, the satellite imagery survey would be conducted in other parts of India to learn the prospective area of natural rubber cultivation."
India is now ranked sixth in terms of area (711,560 hectares) of rubber cultivation in the world, first in productivity (1,760 kg per hectare), second in consumption (0.90 metric tonnes per year) and fourth in production (831,400 metric tonnes in 2009-10).
In India, rubber is traditionally grown in Kerala and Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu while seven northeastern states, excluding Sikkim, are categorised as non-traditional areas for rubber cultivation.
"About 450,000 hectares of land is currently suitable for rubber cultivation in the seven northeastern states of India. The region has produced 41,200 MT of natural rubber in 2010-11 fiscal from 113,685 hectares of land being currently cultivated," Mohanan added.
Tripura is the second largest natural rubber cultivating state in the country after Kerala with around 60,000 hectares of land under cultivation and producing about 26,000 tonnes of natural rubber in 2010-11. India's second industrial rubber park has been set up recently in Bodhungnagar in western Tripura to boost the country's elastic polymer industry.
The park, a joint venture between the Tripura Industrial Development Corporation (TIDC) and the Rubber Board, is the second of its kind in the country after the rubber park in Irapuram, Kerala.
To boost rubber cultivation in non-traditional areas of India, the Rubber Board has been providing a subsidy of Rs.35,000 per hectare against Rs.19,500 per hectare in the traditional areas.
"Rubber Board has also been providing technical and various other financial aids to the rubber growers in the northeastern region, where 6,000 hectares of land proposed to be brought under the rubber cultivation in the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-17)," Mohanan added.
"There are over 50,000 rubber and latex-based downstream products that have a huge domestic and international market potential and the park would provide the platform and impetus for the growth of the downstream rubber industry in the country," said an official of TIDC.
"Though natural rubber cultivation was introduced in India in 1873 and commercial cultivation started in 1902, due to unfavourable agro-climatic conditions the cultivation could not be extended in vast areas of India except the present areas of cultivation," the official added.
To a question about farming of mono-cultivation like natural rubber is harmful to the environment, the Rubber Board's deputy chief said that this is an utterly wrong conception.
"If natural rubber cultivation is harmful to the environment, why have China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia and many other countries been expanding rubber cultivation in their countries?" he asked.