Lakhs of saplings ready for plantations in seven NE States
Riding on a plantation wave that is sweeping Northeast India, the rubber nurseries in Kerala are getting the best out of their grow bags after a decade-long Iull.
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 the State. Besides bringing in a dramatic turnaround in sales, this expanding programme of plantation has also ensured a longer business season in the coming years as nurseries play catch-up.
Special trains According to officials with the 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 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 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," said a top official with the Rubber Board.
The total requirement for this year, according to him, stood around 1.32 crore saplings and of this, the remaining stock will be sourced from the nurseries across the Northeast.
The planting project kicked off last year 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 agency has also rolled out a credit-linked rubber plantation development plan for the region with the support of the Automotive Tyre Manufacturers ASSoOciation (ATMA) and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
For the nursery units, the boom follows a dismal decade beset by a gradual fall in plantation cover, rising input costs and falling prices in Kerala.
"Thank God that the Northeast is planting away and right now, we are all sowing for that market," said Jose Kutty Antony, secretary of the All Kerala Rubber Nursery Owners Association.
According to him, at least 30% of the over 1,000 nurseries in the State had wound up over the past decade while about half of the remaining units have diversifted into the budding of fruit plants such as jackfruit or rambutan.
"The pandemic-induced disruptions were the final nail in the coffin as we had to dispose majority of the stocks raised for the season that typically lasts four months from June,' he added.