Burma expects to increase its rubber exports by a third in the coming year following recent efforts to promote the industry to the international community.
The Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association (MRPPA) said it estimates sales of 150,000 tonnes of rubber in 2013, up from 95,000 tonnes last year, thanks to new customers around Southeast Asia and beyond.
“In the last fiscal year of 2011-2012, our market depended almost entirely on China,” said Khaing Myint, secretary of the MRPPA. “But now we have importers such as South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore.”
The surge in sales comes after a conference in Rangoon in September organized by the International Rubber Research and Development Board (IRRDB), attended by representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, India and two European countries, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Rubber producers are now hoping to harness international expertise to improve the quality of their rubber so that they can charge more for their product.
“We want to share the experiences of experts on rubber plantations from the international community,” said Khaing Myint. “We need new technologies and skillful and well-experienced technicians. Then we will get the quality that meets international demand.”
Naing Oo, a rubber producer from Mudon Township in Mon State, said they still get a lower price than countries such as Thailand, Philippines and Laos, but that the quality of local rubber is not far off.
The best-quality rubber in Burma current sells for $3,000 per tonne, around $350 less than the best-quality rubber in neighboring Thailand.
Rubber is the main agricultural export in Mon State and Tenasserim Division, and is also produced in Rangoon and Pegu divisions. The total area of rubber plantation in Burma in 2012 was 450,000 acres (182,000 hectares), according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Western countries are increasingly interested in buying Burmese rubber. The MRPPA sent samples in February to Germany, Austria, Denmark and New Zealand in the hope this will lead to sales.
Burma is currently ranked seventh in rubber production in Southeast Asia, behind Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines by the IRRDB.
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