New Delhi: India’s output of rubber has picked up in the past two months after workers returned from a viral disease and should top 819,000 tonnes in the year to March, up 10% from earlier forecasts, a government source said.
Output was earlier projected to drop to 743,000 tonnes from around 853,000 tonnes last year, after an outbreak of mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus in the southern state of Kerala, which produces 90% of India’s rubber output.
The source at the Rubber Board, an arm of the Ministry of Commerce, said on Friday the tapping was now in full swing. He declined to be identified because it was the board’s chairman who was authorised to speak to the media.
The board had initially forecast production to reach 874,000 tonnes in 2007/08 before the outbreak.
However, despite better production prospects prices were high, said an official representing tyre makers, a major consumer of rubber.
“Production forecasts may have improved but prices are still a concern,” said Rajiv Budhraja, director general of the All India Tyre Manufacturers Association. “We fear prices will touch Rs102-103 rupees per kg once the tapping season ends this month.”
Budhraja said domestic prices were at around Rs95 per kg, up about Rs10 from August.
Tyre makers consume about 55% of the domestic output, he said.
Car makers, including Tata Motors that unveiled this month the world’s cheapest car, have said rising tyre costs have put pressure on them. “It is so surprising that prices are high even as the tapping season is yet to end. Although production is expected to be better than previous estimates, we are going to depend on imports when global prices are higher than India,” Budhraja said.
Rubber collection from trees, largely a manual process, peaks between October and January.
The Rubber Board said India imported 67,000 tonnes between April and December, up from 45,000 tonnes in the year ago period, while exports dropped sharply to 22,000 tonnes from 61,600 tonnes.
India had imported 88,000 tonnes last year.