THAILAND: Ministry rallies behind rubber for innovation
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives plans to develop rubber products with innovative ways to create new market demand and help strengthen prices, said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek. Several projects are in the pipeline, including research grants, funds for startups and the creation of a "Rubber Valley", or hub for innovative rubber projects.
The "Rubber Valley" proposal is being studied by the Rubber Authority of Thailand, with the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat being surveyed for the project. The proposal is likely to be finalised before the end of this year, Ms Rachada said. She said while the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed general rubber consumption, Thailand's export of natural latex gloves has grown, prompting the government to launch the initiative to make Thailand a global hub for rubber glove manufacturing. Thailand is the world's second-largest rubber glove exporter with up to 15 % annual growth, Ms Rachada said, noting global sales of the gloves could be worth THB 40 billion this year.
The ministry is working with the Commerce Ministry in promoting Thai rubber, by matching local traders with foreign players while collaborating with the National Metal and Materials Technology Centre, universities and business operators to enhance glove production technology. She said the government is aware of the need for better production and supply control as it cannot solely rely on rubber exports. It plans to cut down the amount of land designated for rubber plantations by 2 million rai, which will reduce annual output by 500,000 tons, she said.
State agencies had been told to increase the use of latex and rubber in construction projects to boost domestic natural rubber consumption, she said, adding the Transport Ministry plans to use one million tons of rubber in road projects until 2022. Ms Rachada said the price of Ribbed Smoked Sheets 3 exceeded THB 60 per kilogram last week for the first time in three years, a good sign for the industry. The price is expected to stay steady or even increase due to rising global demand, especially from China, where economic activity is picking up.
Source: Daily “The Bangkok Post”, Bangkok; 6 Sept 2020
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)