BANGLADESH: Rubber Board Act goes to parliament

Bangladesh has set the target of producing 100,000 tonnes of rubber in the year 2020 and 200,000 tonnes by the 2050 while the country's total rubber production now stands at 24,000 tonnes.

In the backdrop of rapid industrial growth and multiple uses of rubber products in the industries, the government now feels that rubber production should be enhanced. The rubber planters have been demanding for allotment of more land which will bring a lot of foreign exchange through export after meeting the local demand.

Bangladesh produced 24,000 tonnes of rubber in the year 2012. Out of that the local industries have consumed 14,500 tonnes (60%) of rubber worth Tk 3.34 billion while the rest 9,500 tonnes of rubber have been exported. The export earning from rubber in 2012 was Tk 2.20 billion, data shows.

Senior vice president of Bangladesh Rubber Garden Owners Association Salimul Hoq Chowdhury has said they have requested the Forest and Environment Ministry to allot at least 0.3 million acres of barren land lying unused for long under the Forest Department which can be brought under rubber cultivation.

He said that the Forest Department has 4 million acres of land in different hilly areas. "A vast tract of land owned by the Forest Department is yet to be brought under cultivation. Nor could the forest officials protect the lands from illegal encroachers," Chowdhury said.

He further said that a good number of plots allotted to the rubber cultivators have also been cancelled without showing any reason defying the prohibition of the Ministry of Forest and Environment. The rubber garden owners have requested the government to re-instate the allotments for immediate plantation, he said.

"We have placed these proposals to the concerned minister recently in meetings with him in Dhaka and Chittagong. We are expecting his positive step in this regard," he added.

The government initiated rubber plantation in Bangladesh in 1960 through Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation.

BFIDC has so far planted rubbers in 32,625 acres of land. The plantation area under Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board is 13,000 acres of land and that of private institutions like Duncan Brothers, James Finlay, Ragib Ali and Ispahani Neptune garden is 14,200 acres.

Planters said the government has planned formation of Rubber Board by enacting a bill in the current session of the parliament at the initiative of individual rubber planters which will facilitate uncovering of the huge potential of the rubber industry.

The government has agreed in principle to lease out more lands to the rubber cultivators out of the barren lands unused in the hilly areas once the Rubber Board is formed, they said.

The industry has so long been deprived of due attention by the authority concerned as the authorities could not frame out a law for development of the rubber section over the last 53 years since inception of rubber cultivation in the country.

"Development of rubber cultivation has immense economic potential if the government comes up with financial support. 1304 rubber cultivators in the private individual level produce over 8,000 metric tons of rubber annually," said Salimul Hoq Chowdhury, also a member of the committee formed by the government to formulate Bangladesh Rubber Policy-2010.

Private individual garden owners said their stake in the country's rubber production is more than one-third but they received not a single penny from the government until 2010. The government has provided with financial support of a meager amount of Tk 162.82 million at the interest of 12 per cent in the last 33 years.

Even then they are happy now that the Ministry Forest and Environment (MoFE) has initiated the Rubber Board Act in the current session of parliament which will streamline the potential sector, they observed.

The government realizes the importance of rubber plantation in view of the growth of industrial production. Keeping an eye to industrial growth the ministry has undertaken to form the Rubber Board at the earliest after enactment of law in the current session, the minister is reported to have said at a seminar in Chittagong on 16 Feb. 2013.

Source: Daily "The Financial Express", Dhaka; 19 Feb 2013

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)