UPDATE 1-India's 2013/14 natural rubber imports surge 49.3 pct

Wed Apr 9, 2014 8:46am EDT

(Adds quotes, details)

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI, April 9 (Reuters) - India's natural rubber imports jumped 49.3 percent to a record 324,467 tonnes in the year ended March 31 from the year before as excessive monsoon rains hurt production, the state-run Rubber Board said.

Production fell 7.6 percent to 844,000 tonnes in the year, the board said in a statement on Wednesday, after heavy rainfall disrupted rubber-tapping in top producer Kerala state from July to September.

Consumption of natural rubber consumption rose slightly to 977,400 tonnes from 972,705 tonnes the year before. India imports the commodity from Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

"For the last few years rubber production has been largely steady. Even if it rises this year, we will see a marginal rise, say, of around 2 percent," Rajiv Budhraja, director-general of the Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association, told Reuters.

"So ultimately we have to rely on imports even this year," he said.

India's natural rubber consumption in the year April 2014 to March 2015 could rise to a record 1 million tonnes as demand from tyre makers is likely to improve, Budhraja said.

Replacement tyres are buoying the sales of Indian tyre companies as a sputtering domestic economy hits vehicle sales, crimping orders from automakers.

In March, India's natural rubber imports more than doubled from a year ago to 24,196 tonnes, while production eased 2.8 percent to 52,000 tonnes, the board said.

Earlier this month, the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries estimated that India, the world's fifth-biggest natural rubber producer, would import around 300,000 tonnes in calendar year 2014, compared with 303,900 tonnes in 2013.

The association expected India's production to rise by 12 percent in 2014 to 950,000 tonnes. (editing by Jane Baird)