Tripura on Wednesday released a rubber clone variety resistant to diseases and the cold, RRII 429, to develop commercial cultivation of the cash crop.
Tripura was among the first states to commercially adopt rubber cultivation in northeast India way back in the 1960s, although organised cultivation shaped up only in the eighties. Over four decades later, the state still produces less than 1,200 kg per hectare plantation area of rubber, against the national average of 1,500.
So, in a bid to boost production of the ‘white gold’ in the nation’s second-largest rubber producing state, this engineered variety of rubber specifically suited for agro-climatic conditions of Tripura was introduced.
Speaking at the inauguration event, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said RRII 429 will develop the livelihood of natural rubber cultivators, especially those in distant tribal hamlets, as it will grow faster and produce high yield despite harsh climatic conditions.
“We have exported a lot of products to other states and foreign countries, but received profit from rubber alone. An annual business of Rs 1,400 crore from the rubber sector is definitely profit-making. We are hopeful this new clone variety will help develop Tripura’s economy,” Deb said.
Deb also announced that Tripura would soon serve as a transit hub for the transportation route between India and Bangladesh via Chittagong, which is close to the Tripura-Bangla frontier.
Rubber Board Chairman Sawar Dhanania and Executive Director KN, also present for the event, said the new rubber variety was found capable of producing over 64 grams per tree or per tap during large-scale trials, and 1,500 kg per hectare annually during block trials. The clone variety was put to rigorous testing for the last 23 years in several locations across North Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
In India last year, 6.5 lakh tonne rubber was produced, out of which Tripura produced around 12 per cent. While the figures seem promising, they have been rather stagnant in terms of per-hectare production. The national annual demand of rubber is 12 lakh tonne in the domestic industry, which means there is more scope for producing rubber.
In terms of quality, rubber is produced in six major categories — RSS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and ’lot’ or ungraded quality. Till a few years ago, nearly all the rubber produced in Tripura was of the last category. With some training and upgradation, 35-40 per cent of the rubber now produced in Tripura is graded – mostly RSS 3 and 4.