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RUBBER NEWS INT'L: Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. (YRC) has agreed to provide economic support for Thai natural rubber farmers
(Last Updated: 07 Apr 2020)

 

 

 

Yokohama agrees to support NR farmers in Thailand

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Yokohama agrees to support NR farmers in Thailand

 — Yokohama  Co. Ltd. () has agreed to provide economic support for Thai natural   and to improve traceability to ensure transparency and soundness of the  chain.

Yokohama’s pledge is being coordinated through the Rubber Authority of Thailand, state enterprise under the jurisdiction of Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC), and ties into the company’s “Procurement Policy for Sustainable Natural Rubber.”

YRC said this agreement is a follow-up to a survey on natural rubber plantations in Thailand’s Surat Thani district conducted by its NR processing subsidiary, Y.T. Rubber Co. Ltd. (YTRC), since June last year.

  

YTRC has interviewed about 70 NR farmers and plans to continue the survey with the goal of surveying 500 farmers by year-end 2021. YRC plans to use the survey results to analyze the issues facing NR plantations to enable it to contribute to sustainable NR operations and to improve traceability.

The growth in demand for NR in recent years has  to growing concerns in NR-producing countries and regions about a host of problems, YRC said, including unlawful deforestation, land exploitation,  violations and adverse effects on biodiversity,

To help resolve these problems, YRC is participating in the Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative (SNR-i) advocated by the .

The company also is active as a founding member of the Global  for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) launched in October 2018.

Among activities YRC has undertaken to secure NR sustainability are:

  • conducting joint research on natural rubber with universities;
  • promoting widespread use of “agroforestry” that contributes to more stable income for the country’s rubber farmers; and
  • holding regular exchanges (Suppliers’ Day) with natural rubber suppliers.

Source:  Business

 

Feature: Driven by passion to boost ailing local rubber industry

World's first: A test road being built using CMB. —Photos: Malaysian Rubber Board

Malaysian rubber scientists’ innovative rubber coagulation process scores a world’s first in road construction while helping rubber smallholders.

NECESSITY may be the mother of invention for some but other reasons can drive creativity, too.

 

Take Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) chief scientist Dr Nazirah Ahmad for example. The passion to help rubber smallholders struggling to cope with falling rubber prices galvanises her.

Growing up in Alor Setar in the 1960s and 1970s, she watched her father work extremely hard as a rubber tapper on a smallholding to feed his family. It is a memory that has left an indelible mark on her soul. That, coupled with the desire to lift rubber tappers out of the doldrums they are currently in, drove Dr Nazirah to work with her team to answer the MRB’s call and innovate a product that is a world first.

 

They came up with cuplump modified bitumen (CMB), an aggregate that can be used with other components to construct roads. Cuplump is basically the dried rubber lump that forms in the cup tied to the rubber tree into which latex drips. All rubber smallholders in Malaysia use this collection method rather than collecting liquid latex.

“This is the first of its kind in the world and we have patented it, ” said Dr Nazirah, who is the project leader.

“It is considered a real success but we will only be happy if the various authorities and private roadbuilders use CMB to build roads in Malaysia.”

The MRB has been very concerned about dropping rubber prices which have resulted in much hardship for rural Malaysians. This government agency is tasked not only with increasing the rubber yield on smallholdings but also finding ways in which the demand for cuplump rubber could shoot up.

Dr Nazirah said the government is also concerned about the subsidy it has been giving out since 2014 to smallholders every time the price drops below RM2.50 per kilo for cuplump rubber, realising that this could not go on forever.

Mahirah making sure the aggregate mix and road height is correct on the test road.Mahirah making sure the aggregate mix and road height is correct on the test road.

“We started in early 2014 and by the end of that year, we had completed innovating the CMB and tests showed we were ready to start laying trial roads.

“We were excited as we had created something that could eventually boost the lives of the smallholders if the technique is used fully, ” Dr Nazirah said in a recent interview.

“Making smallholders self-sufficient is also a way of giving them back their dignity.”

She emphasised that more than 90% of the rubber producers in Malaysia are smallholders and all of them produce cuplumps, as the logistics involved in transporting liquid latex are costly and cumbersome for smallholders.

“So we thought that using CMB instead of the conventional rubber and other polymers that are being currently used to mix with bitumen would not change the quality of the roads.

“We successfully proved that the performance grade of the CMB is just as good as the conventional aggregates. This was the first step before moving on to field tests.

Kok (in red) being briefed on CMB and how it is used in building roads by MRB chairman Datuk Sankara Nair.Kok (in red) being briefed on CMB and how it is used in building roads by MRB chairman Datuk Sankara Nair.

“We have laid out roads in stretches in many parts of the country, including the stretch leading to our Parliament. These tests have been ongoing for the last three years and we check every three months.

“We are monitoring closely and preparing regular reports on all these stretches.”

Dr Mazlina Mustapha Kamal, who was also on the team, said once tests are acceptable and it is proven that the quality and durability of these roads are just the same, if not better, as conventional roads, the industry will be heading for a boost that the smallholders have not seen in a long time.

She said MRB is working with the Federal Public Works Department (PWD) on the road construction, which has involved some hard work on the part of her team, but added that the challenge is worth it.

Mahirah Mohd Idris, another team member, said they had to work under the scorching sun daily to measure the height of the roads being constructed and ensure that the mixing of all aggregates meets specifications.

“After four years of trial runs, our endeavours have been fairly successful. Of course there were some issues but these are expected, as in any trials, ” she said.

Dr Nazirah explained that these complaints were because of construction defects and had nothing to do with the quality of CMB:

“It’s like baking a cake, if the ingredients are not measured properly before baking, you won’t get a perfect cake.”

Among the scientists involved in the project are (from left) project leader Dr Nazirah Ahmad, Dr Mazlina Mustapha Kamal and Mahirah Mohd Idris.Among the scientists involved in the project are (from left) project leader Dr Nazirah Ahmad, Dr Mazlina Mustapha Kamal and Mahirah Mohd Idris.

Dr Nazirah said it was not an easy task to promote the use of CMB to the relevant government agencies that build roads in the country, as they were concerned about higher costs and long-term durability.

“In any production, the cost is related to volume of demand. Right now the total length of CMB roads we have constructed is only about 50km. Obviously, the cost per km of construction will be high.

“But Malaysia has a road network of 250,000km, which is a huge market for us to exploit in the interest of the smallholders directly and the rubber industry as a whole.

“And while bringing down the cost, it will increase the revenue of smallholders substantially.

“Besides PWD, the largest roadbuilders in Malaysia is UEM. If we slowly but surely convert these roads to CMB material, we are talking business here, ” she said.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall has agreed to work with MRB to use CMB widely in its road networks, which will give CMB a major boost, Dr Nazirah said.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said she is pushing hard for the government to use CMB for road construction in the country eventually. “This year, the Finance Ministry has budgeted RM100mil for this purpose. It will surely be successful and in the interest of the smallholders, we must do this.”

For their innovation, the MRB science was given a special award by the government recently. The others in the team are Dr Ruhida Ab Rahim, Nik Zakaria Nik Yahya, Mohd Khairulniza Mansor and Kamarularifin Hadithon.

K. Parkaran was a deputy editor at The Star and producer at Aljazeera TV.

 

Rubber futures face turbulence amid new coronavirus epidemic

Dark clouds hang over tire  while supply worries persist

Rubber futures face turbulence amid new coronavirus epidemic

There are growing concerns that China’s tire production might stagnate.   © Reuters

 —  rubber prices are fluctuating wildly as the deadly outbreak of the new coronavirus that causes pneumonia spreads, especially in its epicenter Wuhan and elsewhere in China.

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Natural rubber is essential to the production of auto tires. It is also widely used for industrial products such as hoses and belts. The recent turmoil in the commodity’s  comes as China, the world’s biggest auto  and second-largest economy after the U.S., is struggling to cope with the public health crisis.

Natural rubber futures prices tumbled amid growing concerns over sluggish auto sales in many countries due to an economic slowdown as well as over weaker demand from carmakers.

But concerns over a decline in natural rubber supplies from Southeast Asia, a major producing region, had triggered a spike in prices between last autumn and early January. Such concerns remain strong.

The recent volatility in the natural rubber futures market is likely to continue for the time being amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and a supply decline.

Rubber futures face turbulence amid new coronavirus epidemic

Ribbed smoked sheet, or RSS, rubber futures prices on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, or Tocom, are one of international benchmarks.

On the Tocom, main forward month futures plunged to 173 yen per kilogram on Feb. 3, the lowest level in three months, or since early November 2019, and marking a decline of 34.8 yen, or 17%, from the most recent high recorded on Jan. 14.

Like in the case of other international commodities such as crude oil and nonferrous metals, the sharp fall in natural rubber futures was triggered by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

China accounts for 40% of global consumption of natural rubber, which it uses primarily for auto tires.

There has been a delay in automakers’ efforts to get their plants in China up and running again after the long Lunar New Year holiday due to the new coronavirus epidemic, with Japanese carmakers postponing the resumption of operations.

China has boosted its presence as an auto parts supply hub in recent years. A disruption to the country’s auto parts exports could also lead to stagnant car production in various parts of the world.

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor decided to cease operations of all its plants at three locations in the country in sequence from Feb. 4 as the supply of parts from China has been disrupted.

If Japanese and Western carmakers’ parts procurement is also affected, demand for tires to be installed on new  is likely to weaken further.

If the economies of many countries slow down further due to factors such as the manufacturing industry turmoil and the cooling tourism industry, damping consumer sentiment, auto sales there will become even more sluggish.

This prospect also helped trigger a sell-off in the natural rubber futures market.

“If the auto industry’s stagnation is extended for a long period of time and become serious, weak prices will continue for between half a year and a year,” said Shinichi Kato, president of Shinichi Kato Office, a Chuo Ward, Tokyo-based trading company specializing in rubber.

Rubber futures face turbulence amid new coronavirus epidemicA rubber tree farmer adjusts a collecting cup at his flooded plantation in southern Thailand.   © Reuters

However,  had surged to a two-year high before plunging, as fears of a supply decline grew amid the spreading damage to rubber plantations from fungal disease in Southeast Asia.

According to some media reports, the disease had infected 382,000 hectares out of about 3 million hectares of collectible rubber plantations in Indonesia as of Oct. 1. Some rubber plantations in Malaysia and Thailand were also confirmed to have been infected.

As a result, rubber trees that produce the equivalent of just under 10% of global production in the three  countries appear to have been affected.

If rubber trees are infected with fungal disease, their leaves fall and photosynthesis becomes impossible, resulting in them bleeding less sap, a raw material for natural rubber.

The damage from fungal disease that spread through Southeast Asia’s natural rubber-producing regions triggered a rally in prices last autumn.

According to the International Rubber  Group, Thailand is the biggest supplier of natural rubber with an annual production of 5.15 million tons, which equals 37% of global supply. Indonesia accounts for 25%, followed by Vietnam (8%) and China (6%).

The natural rubber-producing regions usually have a dry season between February and April. Natural rubber production tends to decline during the period. There are also lingering concerns that production might be disrupted in April and beyond due to the impact of rubber trees’ disease.

In fact, natural rubber prices on Thailand’s spot market, which tend to reflect the current supply and replique montre rolex demand environment, stood at 46.5 baht per kilogram on Feb. 4, a relatively small decline of 7% from the most recent high.

Thai spot prices reflect supply concerns strongly and have dropped less than Tokyo futures prices in terms of percentage.

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