Rubber Tapping

rubber-tappingThe rubber plant is not a native plant of India. The rubber plant was introduced in India by the Dutch colonialists. They cultivated rubber in Indonesia and as the climate in Kerala is similar to that in Indonesia they introduced the crop here as well. The Rubber plant (its botanical name is Havea brasiliensis) produces sticky, white latex that is collected and processed to produce natural rubber. A rubber plant can be first tapped after it has grown at least 7 years. It is possible to tap a rubber tree for over 20 years. The main characteristics of the rubber trees are their straight trunks and smooth green leaves. The rubber tappers harvest the rubber by making a long curving cut on the outer bark of the trunk of the rubber tree. When the cut is made the latex from the tree seeps through the cut surface and flows down the cut into a container probably a coconut shell or a cup, tied to the tree by the rubber tapper. Daily morning the rubber tapper checks the cup tied to each tree and collects the latex. In order to extract more latex from the tress the tapper will make another cut next to the previous cut. A tree after about 20 years stops producing further latex. Then a new tree is planted in its place.Other plants such as spices, areca nut and cashew are also grown apart from rubber trees. The local farmers and plantation workers harvest the crops on these rubber plantations in Kerala.