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Phayre’s Leaf Monkey facts – Why rubber plantations are a threat to Phayre’s Leaf Monkey?

Phayre’s Leaf Monkey facts – Why rubber plantations are a threat to Phayre’s Leaf Monkey?


  • GS 1 || Geography || Indian Economic Geography || Agriculture

Why in the news?

In Tripura, the spectacled leaf monkey is facing a dire future because of rubber plantations.


  • The rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis Muell. Arg is indigenous to the Amazon basin.
  • During the nineteenth century, Brazil was the main supplier of hevea latex, which was collected through tapping of trees in the natural forest.
  • Rubber seedlings smuggled out of Brazil became the parent planting stock for all rubber plantations developed in present-day Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries at the turn of the twentieth century.
  • Rubber has since been planted in a number of tropical countries as a plantation crop.
  • The most important rubber producers today are in Southeast Asia. Today Brazil plays an insignificant role in international markets.

Reasons behind declining rubber industry in South America despite favourable conditions:

  • Unstable political conditions: South American Countries have been witnessing prolonged struggles for independence, coups, countercoups due to which they are not able to do necessary research for rubber production.
  • Declining yield: The governments in the region did not understand the importance of replanting and other methods like South East Asian countries did. Therefore, the yields kept declining after every year.
  • No supportive policies : The favourable government policy is one of the major factors behind the growth of rubber plantation. The South American governments failed to provide such policies.

Important facts about Rubber plantation:

  • Soil and climate: It requires deep and lateritic fertile soil with an acidic pH of 4.5 to 6.0 and highly deficient in available phosphorus. Tropical climate with annual rainfall of 2000 – 4500 mm is suited for cultivation. Minimum and maximum temperature should be ranged from 25 to 34°C with 80 % relative humidity is ideal for cultivation. Regions prone to heavy winds should be avoided.
  • Season: June – July is optimum for cultivation.
  • Method of propagation: Propagated by green budding, brown budding and crown budding.

Present status of the rubber plantation resource

  • About 80 percent of the 9.7 million ha of rubber plantations established worldwide for latex production in 1999, are in Southeast Asia
  • 72 percent of the total are in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. With an overall area of more than 3.5 million ha, Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of natural rubber.

Natural Rubber and Synthetic Rubber:

  • Around 25 million tonnes of rubber are produced each year, of which 30 percent is natural. Since the bulk is synthetic, which is derived from petroleum, the price of natural rubber is determined, to a large extent, by the prevailing global price of crude oil.
  • Natural Rubber is obtained from latex of rubber trees. Latex is a white milky liquid, collected by making cuts on rubber tree bark.
  • Asia was the main source of natural rubber, accounting for about 94% of output in 2005. The three largest producers, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, together account for around 72% of all natural rubber production.

Latex collection from Rubber trees

Socio-economic importance of Rubber plantation:

  • Low cost fuel: Rubberwood has traditionally been used as a cheap source of woodfuel in most of the countries where rubber plantations are abundant, such as for industrial brick burning, tobacco curing, or for fuelling of locomotive engines.
  • No timber use: Due to lack of durability, rubberwood was rarely used as utility timber except in timber-scarce countries.
  • Industrial use: Uncured rubber is used for cements; for adhesive, insulating, and friction tapes; and for crepe rubber used in insulating blankets and footwear. The galvanisation of rubber has provided greater flexibility in using
  • Important source of employment: The rubber plantation is an important source of employment

The location of rubber plantation is determined on basis of following factors:

  1. Cheap labour: The latex is collected manually from rubber tires, therefore it requires cheap and abundant labour. The dense population in the equatorial South east Asia and central America is one of the factors behind concentration of rubber plantation in the region.
  2. Climatic conditions: The rubber plantation requires hot moist equatorial climates. Such a climate is found in South East Asia .
  3. Technology: The reasons behind the synthetic rubber is located in western industrialised countries is because the synthetic rubber is used widely for industrial use. In contrast, rubber plantation areas have witnessed the growth of R&D facilities of natural rubber. For eg: Rubber research Institute in Kuala Lumpur is researching new selective breeding methods. They are also experimenting on management aspects new tapping methods to cut the labour cost
  4. Government policy: The government policy is rubber production are is aimed at creating more job opportunities and increasing the export value of the produced rubber. For eg: Government regulates the export quality by “standard Malaysian rubber (SMR)” system e.g. SMR5 grade rubber, SMR50 grade rubber. Thus, Malaysian rubber comments respect and good prices in the international market for its uniform quality.

Rubber Plantation in India:

  • India is one among the top ten rubber producing countries. An estimated 60,000 hectares of land is now under rubber cultivation, and in the next five years, the area under the “liquid gold” cultivation would be doubled.
  • Kerala is the leading rubber plantation state in India. The first commercial rubber plantations in India were established at Thattekadu in Kerala in 1902. But wide cultivation of rubber started after 1940 in Kerala. The places in Kerala where rubber is grown are Malanaadu, Idanaadu, Kottayam, Palakkad.
  • Tripura is the second-largest producer of natural rubber in India after Kerala, as per area under cultivation and quantity of produce.
  • India’s northeast has the potential to transform itself into the world’s largest natural rubber producing region, and the country’s second rubber-based industrial park is being set up in Tripura to boost the industry.

Model Mains Question:

  1. Discuss the factors which determine the location of rubber plantations. Give a brief account of rubber plantation in India.