Mangaluru: Farmers in Mandya and nearby sugarcane belt are not the only ones affected by the crisis in agrarian sector. Rubber, which was once a profitable crop, has now turned a disaster and is set to ruin over 55,000 rubber growers in coastal and Malnad districts of the state.
Fall in rubber price seems to have forced growers to take the extreme step of committing suicide in the coastal belt. In the past two months, three growers have resorted to suicide in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada.
In Karnataka rubber is grown in over 50,000 hectares of land in the six districts of Uttar Kannada, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu. There are about 55,000 registered rubber growers.
Though rubber was not a traditional crop in Karnataka, thousands started growing it after the state government provided subsidy and loan facilities. Many families from Kerala too shifted to the coastal districts as rubber growers.
But in recent years, rubber price has seen a downward trend. The price which was Rs 240 in 2011-12 has now decreased to Rs 100.
Growers are in distress as the cost of production has overtaken the income. Many growers have stopped tapping and some have even started felling the trees and growing alternative crops! The most worrying issue is the rubber growers’ suicide.
“Rubber growers are in distress due to the fall in price. Those who depend on rubber, are in a sorry state as they find repayment of loans difficult. Those who have other plantations like areca are able to manage to some extent. But it is concerning that three rubber growers have committed suicide in the last two months,” Karnataka Rubber Producers Association (KRUPA) president Shridhar G Bhide said.
To solve the crisis, the association has submitted a memorandum to the state government demanding Rs 100 crore to be provided in the forthcoming state budget as support price for farmers. They want the state government to follow the Kerala model of support price.
“Kerala government has come out with ‘Rubber Production Incentive Scheme,’ for their rubber producers where the difference between the market support price (Rs 150) and the daily reference price approved by the Rubber board will be credited to the bank account of the farmers directly,” he said.