KOTTAYAM: Kurian Thomas, a small time rubber planter, never tapped his trees during Karkidakam, a period marked by heavy rains.
This year, he started tapping because rains have been scanty. “Big planters have a fixed schedule for tapping. But small-time farmers like me can’t follow that schedule. Since the weather is suitable I am doing my job. Who knows when rains will start again making tapping impossible then,” said Thomas.
Usually April-August is when the production of rubber comes down mainly because of the rains, resulting in more rubber being imported during this time. This year, 70,837 metric tonnes of rubber was imported from April-July. Last year, during the same period around 67,000 metric tonnes was imported. On August 1, the price of rubber (rss3) in Kottayam was Rs180 while in the international market it was Rs167 (Bangkok) on the same day.
The good price of the rubber may have also tempted planters like Thomas to start tapping despite this being Karkidakam.
Many planters are following Thomas’ example. Planters, who don’t use rain guards for the trees, start tapping only after monsoon ends in early September. But major planters tap during rainy season as they have rain guards to protect the trees.
“Since there are no rains, this is the ideal climate. Rubber tappers, who are jobless, can earn some bucks,” Thomas said. But he cautioned that rain shortage will hit rubber plantations next season since scanty rains can lead to a drought.
“There was no rainfall in my area for the past 9-10 days. This is bound to reflect next year,” he said. Meanwhile, rubber board climate experts said more rains are likely in October and November. But they won’t compensate the monsoon loss. Experts said Kottayam’s rainfall was 50% less than normal. Rubber board’s deputy director of public relations Satheesh Chandran advised all planters to use rain guards so that they can tap rubber during monsoon.
“The present climate is such that tapping is possible for anyone. But board recommends the use of rain guards so that tapping remains unaffected. Then only we can reap some benefits,” he said.
“Tapping is stopped during the February – March period as the moisture content in the soil is reduced. So an additional halt of 2-4 months due to the rains will affect a planter’s profits,” he said.
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