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COVID-19 increased global demand and export for medical gloves in Thailand and Malaysia

COVID-19 pandemic has generated high demand for medical gloves. Malaysia is globally the biggest producer of medical glove with production capacity of 125,000 million pieces per annum.

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As one of Thailand’s leading export products, rubber glove generated approximately USD 1,200 million per annum. COVID-19 global pandemic is Thailand’s golden opportunity for rubber glove export. During the first 4 months of 2020, export value increased to USD 449 million, an increase of 16% from the same period in 2019.

COVID-19 pandemic has generated high demand for medical gloves. Malaysia is globally the biggest producer of medical glove with production capacity of 125,000 million pieces per annum. In 2019, Malaysia’s actual production was 63,000 million pieces, reflecting the advantage in increasing production capability.

Thailand’s production capacity is 25,000 million pieces per annum and in 2019, the actual production was 85% of total production capacity. EIC noted that if these 2 countries were to increase their  medical glove production capability to the fullest, Malaysia would benefit more than Thailand.

Thailand still has indirect benefit from the increasing export of concentrated latex to Malaysia for medical glove production. During the first 4 months of 2020, export of concentrated latex from Thailand to Malaysia was USD 176 million, an increase of 7% from same period in 2019. With the continuation of COVID-19 pandemic, it is most likely that Malaysia’s demand for Thai concentrated latex will continue.

Malaysia produces natural rubber glove, a high value-added product, with imported concentrated latex from Thailand, a mid-stream product with very little added value. It is an economic lost to Thailand due to the insufficient product transformation into value-added products of concentrated latex.

Therefore, government sector must increase the support in R&D of rubber glove production and enhance up-stream operators who produce concentrated latex to operate in down-stream products like rubber glove. In addition, government sector should encourage foreign direct investment to improve efficiency in production technology which will increase rubber glove production capability as a whole and build a stronger value-added economy for Thailand.

Author: Kanyarat Kanjanavisut 

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EIC or Economic Intelligence Center, a unit of Siam Commercial Bank Public Company Limited, is established to provide business executives with valuable insights for effective decision making.

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