Rubber plantation in Northeast India revives Kerala nurseries

On the back of a huge rubber plantation wave sweeping the Northeast region of India, the rubber nurseries in Kerala are getting a fresh lease of life after a near decade-long lull.

A plan by the Rubber Board to develop rubber plantations in an area of two lakh hectares across the seven Northeastern States in a span of five years starting from 2021- 22 has unleashed pent-up demand among the rubber nurseries in Kerala.

More than bringing in a major turnaround in sales, this expanding programme of plantation has also ensured a longer business season in the coming years as nurseries play catch-up.

According to a senior official at Rubber Board, a whopping 51 lakh rubber saplings, sourced from the nurseries across Kerala, will soon be making their way to plantations across the Northeast and West Bengal. The consignment, comprising 36 lakh of rubber stumps and 15 lakh cup plants (root trainer plants), will be sent to Guwahati on board various passenger and special trains.

As many as 10 special trains have been scheduled between Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta and Guwahati from the last week of May 2022 to the first half of September for transporting the cup plants. These saplings will be dispatched to the respective destinations through the farming clusters under the Board.

The total requirement for this year has been estimated at about 1.32 crore saplings and of this, the remaining stock will be sourced from the nurseries across the Northeast.

The planting project was kicked off in 2021 with the Board operating three special trains from Kerala to transport the saplings and completing the planting operations in about 3,800 hectares.

To support the project, the Rubber Board has also rolled out a credit-linked rubber plantation development plan for the region with the support of the Automotive Tyre Manufactures Association (ATMA) and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

For the nursery units, the boom follows a decade of ebb brought in by a gradual fall in plantation cover, rising input costs and falling prices in Kerala.

At least 30 percent of the over 1,000 nurseries in Kerala had wound up over the past decade and about a half of the remaining units diversified into the budding of fruit plants such as jackfruit or rambutan. The pandemic-induced disruptions also added to the woes as farmers had to dispose of most of the stocks raised for the season.

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