VFS microfinance customer with rubber sheets

Sumita Deb Barma

Tripura woman finds secure income in rubber sheets

Sumita Deb Barma is unlikely to ever figure on any list of top businesswomen or entrepreneurs. But the world cannot do without the millions of women and men like her: 90 per cent of the world’s natural rubber production comes from smallholder farmers like Sumita. And, despite synthetics, the world still cannot do without natural rubber—it is used to make more than 40,000 products, ranging from surgical gloves to aircraft tyres.

Sumita, 37, became a rubber farmer when she got married to Jahirmoy Debbarma, whose family owned the land and the trees that sustain the family today. Sumita, who had studied up to Class 12, decided to take a loan and buy some machines. That’s how she found herself at the Khowai branch of Village Financial Services.

Sumita’s family also grows rubber so she knew the inside story and is a quick learner. The rubber-sheet rolling machines that they bought with the VFS loan are a big help. They sell the sheets to a company in Agartala.

Sumita claims their average monthly income is Rs 30,000-35,000, with seasonal variations.

The COVID19 lockdown did not affect them as they continued tapping the latex and making sheets. They had to wait for the government to lift the lockdown before they could sell the sheets.

Sumita and her husband have 700 rubber trees. After they collect the latex, they process it with a bit of acid and water. They have two manually operated rollers which they use to make the sheets. They have one worker to help with the processing and pay him Rs 250 a day.

Sumita and her husband produce around 100-150 kg of sheets a month; production continues around the year. They get around Rs 150 a kg for the rubber. The business is flourishing today.

Published on Nov 5, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022