A significant increase in rubber production was experienced last year, said Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe addressing a media conference at the Ministry premises.
Rubber production increased to 150,000 metric tonnes in 2010 from 137,000 metric tonnes in 2009. The average price of rubber recorded a 100 percent increase last year compared to 2009.
This price was Rs 202.79 per kg in 2009 and Rs 402.71 in 2010. The Minister said that these prices are higher than the average for high quality rubber varieties.
Minister Samarasinghe also stated that empty lands belonging to large scale estate company owners which are not cultivated will be taken over by the government after the grace period of six months which ends in June. These lands will be distributed among unemployed youth with financial assistance and knowledge to cultivate them once again.
This will be done under a proposal of the President made in the previous budget speech, the Minister said.
He said that the government's policy is to encourage further rubber plantations since the supply of rubber is still lower than the demand. He said that the rubber industry has provided relief for small scale rubber estate owners. Their demand to attain land for more rubber plantations is escalating.
The Minister said that the government is engaged in promoting rubber plantations in non traditional areas. "We have distributed 5,000 hectares among 10,000 people in Moneragala while providing them plants and technological assistance for rubber plantation.
This is conducted in coordination with the President's initiative to alleviate poverty. They will be able to reap the benefits by another five years. Attention has been paid to facilitate alternative livelihoods for them until they could earn profits from rubber, Samarasinghe said.
"About 10,000 hectares of land in the Mahaoya area in Ampara district has been identified to have suitable conditions for rubber. Rubber Research Institute is carrying out adaptive trails in Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu to find out the possibility to plant rubber he noted.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)