FAR EAST: Win-win situation in the development of Rubber City near Malaysia-Thai border

Apart from just being big natural rubber producers prone to the volatile nature of the commodity price movement, these two countries are taking giant steps to possibly develop large-scale rubber
and rubber-based industries.

Malaysia currently is the largest rubber gloves producer, commanding over 60% of the total global demand while Thailand is world-renowned as the producer of many internationally branded automobile tyres.

More interestingly, the Malaysian Government will be seeking the assistance of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead the study on the Rubber City joint-proposal and identify suitable projects for implementation.

The choice was most apt as Dr Mahathir has been known to be a vocal and ardent supporter of the rubber industry and has given his advice on the growth of the industry over the past decades. He will be delivering a keynote address on "Vision for the Rubber Industry” at the International Rubber Technology and Economic Conference in Kuala Lumpur next month.

As pointers, Malaysia also has well-known rubber authorities such as the Malaysian Rubber Board and the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council which would be most willing to impart their skills in R&D and marketing experience in rubber-related products for the proposed Rubber

Thailand has the labour strength and consistent supply of natural rubber - the main raw material for making many various types of rubber-based products.

Both countries could harness and share their capabilities and resources into making the "Rubber City” proposal a success.

From another aspect, the efforts towards the development a large-scale rubber and rubber industry-based development could be considered to be a way to protect the livelihood of rubber smallholders who are dependent on the commodity.

As many would know, rubber is synonymous with a rubber smallholder's crop. In fact, smallholders in many rubber producing countries contributed over 90% of the total rubber production.

Via the development of various rubber-related industries in Kedah, both smallholders from Malaysia and Thailand would be able to get good remunerative prices for their rubber, hence providing an uninterrupted supply of the raw material to these manufacturing facilities.

Malaysia is fast becoming an importer of natural rubber and dependent on Thailand and Indonesia for supply.

Malaysia is currently not producing enough natural rubber to cater to its booming rubber-based manufacturing industries such as rubber gloves, medical gloves and other latex-based health services products.

Furthermore, the rubber industry in Malaysia is important in the development of the national economy and providing opportunities for an estimated 300,000 smallholders.

The implementation of the Malaysian Rubber Industry Strategies and the inclusion of the industry as one of the National Key Economic Area projects is expected to stimulate further growth of the industry.

Source: Daily "The Star", Kuala Lumpur; 11 Sept 2012

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)