MALAYSIA: Rubber board unveils planting scheme

The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) will introduce a programme to get smallholders to self-produce high-quality planting materials to address the issue of supply shortage.

Regional director Ismail Ibrahim said Malaysia was now facing acute shortage of high-yielding rubber clones.

"There is not enough rubber seeds to produce the planting materials.. The situation is very serious,” he said.

Rubber seeds, which are mainly produced by old estates, are now sold at RM2..50 to RM3.50 per kg.

Ismail attributed the shortage in rubber seeds to lower production due to the change in weather pattern, over-tapping of rubber trees and inadquate or non-application of fertilisers that had adversely affected flowering.

Ismail said MRB would establish a 50 ha rubber seed production area in Similajau, Bintulu, to produce its own seeds.

"It will take 30 to 36 months to produce the seeds if we follow good agricultural practices.”

He said MRB was stepping up the production of high-yielding rubber clones with the recent establishment of its Similaju station and Malaysian Rubber Budwood Centre (MRBC), the country's first, in Bintulu.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the 1,180 ha station and 45 ha MRBC, which he launched two months ago, would be the catalysts for rubber cultivation in Sabah and Sarawak.

MRBC is expected to produce 3.24 million rubber budwoods per year, focusing on high-yielding and quality latex clones like RRIM 3001, RRIM 928, RRIM 929 and PB 350. It will also produce timber clones such as RRIM 2023 and RRIM 2025.

Dompok's ministry is targetting 500,000 ha in Sarawak and 300,000 ha in Sabah to be planted with high-yielding rubber trees by 2020.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, also state Modernisation of Agriculture Minister, said last week that 26 areas in the state had been identified for the planting of high-yielding rubber clones to be sourced from Sungai Buloh, Selangor, and Kota Tinggi, Johor.

Ismail said that under the Similajau's RM2 million phase 1 project covering 30 ha, the MRBC currently produced about 500,000 sticks of budwood a month..

"We are in the process of establishing another 45 ha under phase 2 to increase the production of rubber budwoods. Phase 3 will cost about RM1.5 million,” he added.

He said the budwoods were supplied to private nursery operators and other industry players. MRB also supplies RRIM 2023 and RRIM 2025 to forest plantation owners in Sabah and Sarawak.

Ismail said there were now four private firms two each in Kuching and Miri certified by MRB to produce bare root stumps and polybag planting materials for smallholders.

He said these companies could increase their productions if there were advanced orders, like from government agencies, as it would take 10 months to produce the planting materials.

According to Ismail, only about 40,000 ha of the existing 159,000 ha rubber holdings in Sarawak were planted with high-yielding clones in the past five years. These clones can produce an average of 1,450 kg per ha per year. Sarawak has some 112,000 rubber smallholders.

He sees a bright prospect for the rubber industry, which had enjoyed good prices for the past several years.

"There is very strong demand from China for natural rubber. The global prices of rubber correlate with those of oil. If oil prices go up, the prices of rubber will also increase,” said Ismail.

He said the current average price of tyre-grade SMR (Standard Malaysian Rubber) is about RM10.5 per kg compared with about RM6.40 per kg in 2006, RM8/kg in 2008 and more than RM9 in 2009.

Unsmoked rubber sheet now fetches an average of RM9 to RM10 per kg, up from RM6 to RM7 in 2009.

There are four factories in Sarawak which collect unsmoked sheet from smallholders and process them into SMR 20 for exports.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)