Kochi: Fears of concessional import of natural rubber from Thailand under the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) has caused a flutter in the rubber sector with growers and traders requesting the Centre to desist from any such move.
United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) president J.K. Thomas has, in a representation to the government, requested it to reconsider the move to allow cheap import of rubber from Thailand.
Thomas said he feared that the agreement would mean delisting rubber from the sensitive list which would bring down the present import tariff from 20% to 5%.
Indian Rubber Dealers’ Federation vice-president N. Radhakrishnan noted that Thailand is the largest natural rubber producer with an annual production of around 32 lakh tonnes. Both groups claim that the move would seriously affect the livelihood of small and marginal growers who account for 90% of the more than one million growers producing 8.03 lakh tonne of rubber annually.
Despite an open economy, there is no parity between domestic and international prices of rubber, with domestic prices well below the international levels, leaving small growers susceptible to even small price swings.
The Union commerce ministry has clarified that no such decision had been taken though Thailand had made a request during the recent Indo-Thai negotiating committee meeting and also the ministerial-level bilateral meeting on 11 April in Delhi.
It had taken note of the Thai request, but no commitment had been given, the ministry said. Thomas blamed the rubber-consuming industry, mainly tyre manufacturers, for wanting concessional import of Thai rubber.