1. What is Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association working on at the moment?
Our rubber team is involved in rubber cultivation. We are doing everything we can to make the whole supply chain related to rubber. We are working with local and foreign organizations and ministries as well.
2. We have learned that qualified rubber is not yet produced locally and there are also discounts on sales due to poor quality of rubber. Why is that?
In our country, 92% of rubber growers are small farmers. Large farms are only 8%. There are many requirements to produce high quality rubber. Insufficient quality of rubber means that the rubber needs to be cleared of bricks, sand and debris and also the use of formic acid instead of the acid used in rubber hardening. The same goes to temperature as well. If the requirements are met, the quality will be internationally accepted and if not, the quality will decline.
Good quality also means being able to afford it. Smallholder farmers can’t afford to buy rubber so they can only produce rubber that are not of high quality. Therefore, we have been working to improve the quality of rubber for 5 or 6 years. Due to the low quality, when selling abroad, it cannot be sold at international prices and is being reduced by about US $ 400 per ton. If we can improve the quality of rubber, we will reach a place where our country can sell rubber at the world market price. At the current world market price of around $ 2,000, we sell for around US $ 1,500 per ton of rubber.
3. What has the association planned to do next to produce quality rubber?
The main disadvantage of our rubber is the low yield per acre. Yields are about half as low as in neighboring countries and this is due to the wrong type of rubber and the wrong way of scratching the rubber band. The scraping system can be modified. However, since the species could not be repaired so a long-term plan is being made to replace it. Another thing is that we are trying to get good quality because of the poor quality of the rubber produced. We have been working with the Japanese Ministry of Commerce to improve the quality of rubber for more than 5 years. We also provide training.
If we sell rubber from the countries that grow rubber with us in the world, we export it with references and certifications from internationally recognized quality laboratories. That system does not exist in our country. You cannot establish a laboratory just because you have the money. You need to be recognized by the IRA (International Rubber Association) to do so. We had to work with Japan to get the certification. The Ministry of Commerce provides a lot of support to set up our lab. They also provide land and buildings. We just received their approval and certification of our lab meeting the criteria of them.
In order to achieve recognition, we had to take tests. They only hold the test twice a year and we have to pass 4 times simultaneously. If we fail once, we have to try again from the start. We have now received the recognition from the IRA and during the meeting with the Ministry of Commerce last month, they have already talked about supporting the laboratory. At the moment, only Myanmar Survey Research (MSR) has been approved and we are now trying to get recognition for RSS.