The new Rubber Production Commissioner of Rubber Board, India, Sabu P Idicula, who has taken charge recently, is a scientist by profession, and experienced in crop protection and various aspects of plantation management. He has been working as Joint Director (Crop Protection) in the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
A known researcher and administrator, Sabu started his career as Agricultural Officer in Kerala State Agriculture Department. He played a crucial role in developing economic and efficient disease management strategies and in the studies on impact of various diseases on growth and yield in rubber. He had been editor to various journals, books and other publications of RRII and the Rubber Board. He is also the Chairman of Corynespora Task Force formed by the Board for control of Corynespora leaf disease of rubber.
Sabu P Idicula has ambitious plans to revitalize the somewhat ailing domestic NR industry. In a brief chat with Rubber Asia on the sidelines of the recently concluded India Rubber Meet (IRM 2018), he said that he is in the process of chalking out a road-map for the country’s NR industry. Excerpts:

Congratulations on your appointment as Rubber Production Commissioner. Your appointment comes at a time when the NR industry all over is at cross roads mainly on account of low prices. What will be your priorities in this backdrop?

These are indeed challenging times for the NR industry, especially the upstream sector, not only in India but across the globe mainly on account of the unremunerative prices and escalating cost of production. What I have in mind is a road-map to increase production and productivity, motivate farmers to continue with rubber harvesting. In fact, at least 30% of the plantations are left untapped of late due to the poor price realization.

How are you planning to address these challenges?

My first initiative would be to bring these untapped areas into tapping. It may be lying untapped due several reasons including high labour cost and low returns. The idea is to entrust these untapped holdings, many of them owned by NRIs, to the nearby Rubber Producers Societies (RPSs) under an economically viable returns sharing formula that is acceptable to both the RPSs and the holders.
Quality of Indian NR is a major issue being highlighted by the consumers. How do you plan to tackle this issue?
There has to be a serious awareness campaign for the same. I am planning to address this seriously and take an initiative to embark upon such a campaign to make the farmers realize the quality issues and take necessary steps. The group processing centres can play a major role in this regard by associating with this.

Value-added rubber products hold the future of the Indian NR products manufacturing industry to be globally competitive. Your take on this please?

This also is an area I want to focus on earnestly. We are planning to engage a technical consulting agency to come out with a concrete plan for this.

Tappers shortage is another grave issue facing the NR industry. Do you have any plans to deal with issue?

In fact, the Rubber Board is already conducting tappers training programmes in association with the Rubber Skill Development Council (RSDC). We will take this forward and take all out efforts to set up a tappers bank of skilled tappers.