Kerala Rubber Farmers Demand MSP, Announce March to Tyre Manufacturing Companies Against Cartelisation
The state-level convention of the rubber farmers in Kerala held in Kottayam on December 1 flayed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led union government for pursuing pro-corporate policies leading to the fall in rubber prices affecting lakhs of farmers in Kerala. The convention, organised by the Samyuktha Karshaka Samiti, resolved to take out marches to the manufacturing units of MRF and Apollo Tyres in the state on December 30.
The other demands raised include the recognition of rubber as an agricultural product and direct procurement by the union government, ensuring a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 300 per kg, extension of subsidies and distribution of Rs 1,788 crores collected as penalty from the tyre manufacturing companies by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to the rubber farmers.
The convention, attended by the 11 member organisations of the joint committee of the farmers associations in Kerala, urged the union government to withdraw from the ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA) to reduce the import of rubber to save the livelihood of the farmers.
‘SAVE RUBBER FARMERS OF KERALA’
Around 12 lakh families in Kerala depend directly or indirectly on rubber farming, with rubber grown in around 5.51 lakh hectares in hilly areas across the state. After the AIFTA, the price of rubber, basically cultivated as latex from the trees, has fallen to Rs 100- Rs 130 per kg from a high of Rs 230 per kg.
The convention urged the union government to reduce the import of synthetic rubber, which has a telling effect on the price of domestic rubber.
Jose K Mani, MP and Chairman of the Kerala Congress (Mani) [KC(M)], while addressing the convention, said, “The price of rubber directly affects every citizen of the state and the economy. The money circulation increases with an increase in rubber prices. With around 5 lakh tons of rubber imported on average, the union government must step in to reduce the import and save the farmers.”
The falling prices have affected the small and marginal farmers owing under two acres of plantations, who account for almost 98% of the rubber farmers in the state. The low prices have forced the farmers to refrain from tapping latex, which would affect the yield in the longer run.
“The policies of the union government are crucial in determining the price of rubber. But the increasing imports are not helping the rubber farmers. The union government is earning revenue through increased customs duty on synthetic rubber, whereas the farmers continue to suffer from low prices”, Jose K Mani added.
The Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA) has opposed the increase in customs duty, claiming that the production cost would increase, and continues to get rubber at low prices from domestic farmers. Irrespective of the taxes, the prices of products, including vehicle tyres, have increased manifold, leading to higher profits for the companies.
“The union government has collected Rs 7,398 crore through import and other duties on rubber. A large portion of this amount must be distributed to the struggling rubber farmers. The union government, for now, must provide Rs 250 per kg as MSP for rubber to save the sector”, Jose K Mani said.
MARCH TO MRF, APOLLO TYRES OFFICES
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and the joint platform of the farmers' organisations have been demanding Rs 300 per kg as the MSP for rubber and direct procurement by the union government.
Inaugurating the convention, E P Jayarajan, the national vice president of the AIKS, accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of signing the ASEAN agreement for the miseries of the rubber farmers.
“The decision to import rubber through the ASEAN agreement is the primary reason for the suffering of the farmers. The pro-corporate, anti-farmer policies of the BJP government have made things worse. With increasing manufacturing costs, the price of rubber in the market now is highly insufficient,” he said.
Referring to the increasing farmers' suicides across the country, Jayarajan said, “Our country depends largely on agriculture. But the BJP government is not worried about the farmers. When waiving off of Rs 10.5 lakh crores of corporate loans is possible under the BJP regime, the farmers long for loan waiver, subsidies and incentives”.
The convention resolved to hold marches and block the manufacturing units of MRF in Kottayam and Apollo Tyres in Ernakulam district on December 30.
Introducing the resolutions of the convention, Valsan Panoli, AIKS general secretary and convenor of the Samyuktha Karshaka Samiti, called upon the farmers to prepare for a sustained struggle to win the right to MSP for rubber.
“We should take a cue from the farmers' struggle, which led to the withdrawal of three farm laws by the Modi government. Ahead of the march on December 30, vehicle jathas and campaigns will be organised. The union government must distribute the penalty of Rs 1,788 crores levied on MRF, Apollo Tyres, JK Tyres, Ceat and Birla Tyres to the farmer,” he said.
The convention also called upon the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government to increase the rubber stabilisation fund, which provides a breather to the farmers to overcome the falling prices.
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