CAMBODIA: Rubber exporter turns to Europe

Cambodia's largest rubber plantation has begun exporting to European buyers, obtaining prices of more than double those from a year ago, according to Chub Rubber Plantation President Mak Kim Hong.

Its rubber fetched about US$5,400 per tonne in Ho Chi Minh City this month, compared with $2,500 a tonne a year ago, he said.

"We have never had the price of rubber increase this much - not in a decade,” he said.

Thailand - the world's largest rubber producer - has been hit by flooding in 10 of its southern provinces, killing 47 people, according to a statement from Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

Some 7,948 hectares of rubber plantations have been damaged during the recent floods, the statement said.

"Flooding in the south of Thailand damaged rubber plantations, further tightening the nation's supplies, which are on a seasonal decline,” Kazuhiko Saito, an analyst at broker Fujitomi Company in Tokyo said.

Mak Kim Hong said global supply was declining, partly due to Thailand's flooding, providing an opportunity for Cambodia's exports.

"[The floods have lead] to a shortage of rubber supply in the global market,” said Mak Kim Hong.

Located in Kampong Cham province, Chub plantation rubber received a certification at international quality level in December 2010, which Mak Kim Hong has said allows it to export at higher prices and to more demanding customers.

It has since begun selling some of its product to a Singaporean company, which, in turn, supplies the European market.

"This year, we received lots of demand from European countries and even the United States, while our existing markets, China and Vietnam, have not come to buy from us,” he said.

He claimed Chinese and Vietnamese buyers currently have excess stock of the commodity, as they had been unable to sell in Japan following last month's earthquake.

However, he expects the company's traditional buyers to return with orders after the Khmer New Year celebrations later this month.

Mak Kim Hong added he did not expect prices to remain at current peaks over the coming months.

"I don't think rubber will fall to below $4,000 a tonne. I expect prices between $4,500 to $5,500,” he said.

Mak Kim Hong is also President of the Cambodia Rubber Association.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)