KOTTAYAM: Union minister of state for tourism K J Alphons Kannanthanam assured rubber farmers in the state that the National Rubber Policy will be announced soon.
Addressing a gathering of farmers and representatives of various organizations in the rubber sector, at the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) here on Sunday, Kannanthanam said that Union commerce minister Suresh Prabhu will hold a similar meeting here soon to hear the worries of the farmers before taking steps to announce the Rubber Policy. He also said that it was the minister who had asked him to convene such a meeting after he briefed the minister about the plight of rubber farmers.
Kannanthanam was accompanied by a joint secretary level team comprising of joint secretary in the ministry of commerce Santosh Kumar Sarangi and Anita Karn, director of plantations.
“The officials will take note of the suggestions put forward by the farmers and stakeholders in the meeting and will brief the minister,” said Kannanthanam. Kannanthanam also rubbished reports about repealing the Rubber Act.
Meanwhile, the main suggestion that came up in the meeting was raising the minimum support price of Rubber to Rs 200 per kg. Jose K Mani and former chairman of Rubber Board P C Cyriac strongly advocated for applying the safeguard duty to protect the millions of rubber farmers. Another issue raised was the proposed import of cup lump rubber. The majority of participants were apprehensive about the move and urged the Government to withdraw form the move which will ruin the natural rubber farming in the country. Other issues raised in the meeting include distribution of subsidy for rubber planting and re-planting, exempting Rubber Producer Societies from GST, restriction of import, making rubber an agricultural product, filling up the post of Chairman, secretary and Rubber Producer Commissioner in the Rubber Board.
Meanwhile, many of the participants raised objection when Kannanthanam said that there will be one more similar meeting to be held at the same venue when the Union Minister arrives. They were agitated as the Centre has been indefinitely delaying the announcement of the National Rubber Policy. A similar meeting was held here on November 11 last year. The same issues were raised by the participants then also. P C Cyriac stood up and told the Minister that the farmers are not interested in more meetings and they want actions based on their suggestions. Finally, Joy Abraham MP stepped in and pacified the participants telling them that it will be a good opportunity if the Union Minister himself comes to listen to their issues.
There was controversy prior to the meeting itself as Anto Antony MP and local MLA Oommen Chandy, both of the Congress, were not invited for the meeting. However, Kannanthanam said that there was no need to politicise the meeting and it was the Rubber Board who had invited the guests. He also said that all the MPs in the state will be invited in the next meeting.
S Jayasuryan, Vice Chairman, Rubber Board presided over the function. N Rajagopal, Secretary in Charge, Rubber Board also spoke in the meeting. Representatives of various organizations in the rubber sector viz Indian Rubber Growers’ Association, Kerala Rubber Karshaka Samrakshana Samithi, INFAM, Bharathiya Rubber Karshaka Morcha, United Planters’ Association of Southern India, Association of Planters Kerala, Rubber Farmer’s Association, Kerala Karshaka Sangham, National Federation of Rubber Producers’ Societies, All Kerala Rubber Nursery Owners’ Association, Association of Latex Producers of India, Indian Block Rubber Processors’ Association, Indian Rubber Dealers’ Federation, Cochin Rubber Merchants Association, All India Rubber Industries Association, Chemicals and Allied Products Export Promotion Council of India and Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association participated.