Rubber

The world consumption of natural rubber is reported to be about 11 million metric tonnes in 2012 and poised to increase in the coming years. This demand is met mainly from the plantations of Hevea brasiliensis in a few key countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Liberia, Myanmar, Cote d lvoire, Philippines, Cameroon, D.R. of Congo, and China.

India’s contributes to more than 10% of this and in 2009-10 the total production was 831400 tonnes of natural rubber. More than 90% of this comes from the state of Kerala which has an area of more than 517000 Hectares under production. The area under production has increased over the years with the rising demand. The current projections for the rubber industry is that the global demand is likely to further increase and there will be less surplus available resulting in an increase in the market price for rubber. Given this scenario, plantations are likely to increase the levels of production in existing plantation and bring newer areas under rubber cultivation. This increase in  the farming intensity of exisiting plantations, when not managed sustainably, can have severe negative impacts on the land. This includes over – exploitation of natural resources like water, depleting the soils of nutrients resulting in larger requirements of chemical fertilizers and possibly an increase in pests and disease attack which will require larger doses of pesticides. These could over the years result in a reduction in production and profits.

A large proportion of the rubber plantations in Kerala, especially the larger holdings are located in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot area, and critical watersheds for the region. Given this, it is in the interest of all stakeholders that these areas are not polluted , resources depleted, and the endemic and endangered denizens of these forests are well protected and rubber plantations become ore sustainable.