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09. December 2005

PHILIPPINES: Chinese investors eyed to join Zambo rubber plantation project

Source: Daily "The Manila Bulletin", Manila; 3 Dec 2005

The Philippine Rubber Industry Association (PRIA) is eyeing Chinese investors for the development of 4,500 hectares of rubber plantation in Zamboanga which should raise the Philippines’ rubber output in light of rubber’s high price of $1,600 per metric ton (MT) in the market.

Chinese investors are coming to the Philippines to look for the potential of agricultural lands that may be grown to rubber as the Chinese government aims to meet its rapidly growing natural rubber demand.

Now the world’s biggest rubber consumer, China imports one million metric tons (MT) of natural rubber yearly for the manufacture of motor vehicle tires, shoes, disposable surgical, and industrial gloves.

"The Philippines can ask for the assistance of the Chinese government. Our rubber-producing provinces should request funding from the Chinese government. China needs rubber, it imports two million tons of rubber per year," said PRIA Chairman Basilisa Ho.

The Chinese government itself has just signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Laos’ government for the funding if rubber plantation totalling to 166,000 hectare. Such MoA may be entered by the Philippines with China, Ho said. Under the MoA, 30 percent of production will go to Laos and 70 percent will be sold to China.

The Chinese government is also using rubber growing in order to wean its own farmers from planting opium.

Some 50,000 hectares are eyed to be planted on rubber in Zamboanga alone, but investment in growing rubber is at P150,000 per hectare.

Rubber Industry Roadmap Chairman Clarito M. Barron said some 500,000 hectares of idle land have actually been identified for possible planting to rubber, but these lands are under the hands of private owners, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or the Department of Land Reform. PRIA has been seeking financing from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) for rubber planting as it sees huge potential in rubber demand which grows by five to seven percent per year worldwide while world’s rubber production has not been growing.

Countries that has increasing demand for natural rubber are the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France, Italy, and UK.

The Mindanao rubber roadmap aims to raise rubber output by 10 percent per year, integrate existing markets and expand new ones, and come up with standards for processed rubber that conforms with acceptable quality in the export market. Other programs of the rubber roadmap are the establishment of budwood gardens and nurseries, accreditation of nurseries, and fund sourcing from government financing institutions.

PRIA should also seek to source some rubber seedlings from North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel F. Pinol who can provide on a "plant now, pay later" basis as North Cotabato has 25 million rubber seedlings for distribution, according to Traders Trust International officer Dandy Calvez.

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)

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