DA targets 7.2% hike in rubber output this year

Published by rudy Date posted on September 23, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects domestic rubber production to increase by 7.2 percent this year to 440,600 tons, as a result of stepped-up efforts to make the Philippines a major player in the global market for this high-value commercial crop (HVCC).

However, for the first six months this year, rubber harvests declined by 0.15 percent to 69,730 metric tons (MT), worth P4.3 billion, from 169,980 MT during the same period last year.

Natural rubber production is considered an emerging industry in the Philippines even though the country started growing trees at around the same time as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia collectively account for around three-fourths of the entire world’s natural rubber output.

Global demand for natural and synthetic rubber shrank by three percent in 2008, based on calculations by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG).

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said “we remain very optimistic about meeting our full year target of 440,600 tons which is 7.2 percent bigger than in 2008.”

The local rubber industry, Yap pointed out, continues to strive to fulfill the requirements of the tire and footwear industries amid some signs of recovery in the global rubber market.

According to Yap, the domestic rubber industry, should embark on a massive replanting program to replace senile trees to earn more from the lucrative rubber market.

He said the domestic rubber industry, should also overcome the challenge of security and peace and order issues, as most rubber plantations are located in Mindanao, making them “unattractive to investors.”

The other major concerns that the rubber sector must immediately address are high production expenditures due to the rising costs of labor, fertilizers, chemicals and other inputs; insufficient access to affordable credit and loans; and the need for a stronger national research, development and extension system to make the industry globally competitive, Yap added.

At least 190,000 Filipinos directly and indirectly depend on the rubber industry, with 38,000 families into rubber farming, 18,000 working as part-time off-farmers and another 20,000 being employed as tappers.

About 700 buyers and traders and an estimated 600 processors and workers are employed in the country’s 30 existing rubber processing centers.

In 2008, the Philippines exported 25 million kilos of latex, rubber plates and other rubber products worth $40.5 million which were shipped mostly to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Last year, national rubber production expanded by 1.72 percent to 411,000 MT, from 404,070 MT in 2007.

However, the total value of production dropped more than seven percent – from P17.26 billion in 2007 to P16.03 billion in 2008 — owing to lower prices triggered by weak demand worldwide for rubber products brought about by the global financial crisis.

Yap said that “while admittedly we lag behind our Asian counterparts, we want to be a major player in the coming years, with Western Mindanao leading because it is home to nearly half of the country’s 123,300 hectares of rubber farms.”

The government has embarked on a 10-year National Rubber Development Program (NRDP) starting in 2006.

The program is geared towards enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the industry — in partnership with the industry players, local and foreign investors, local governments, and farmers’ groups. –Marianne V. Go (The Philippine Star)

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