PHL lost rubber world market to Indonesia and Malaysia PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 31 July 2016 14:36

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

One of he most hard hit agricultural venture in the Philippines is the rubber industry. I was talking the other night with a rubber plantation owner from Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay and he lamentably revealed that rubber plantation owners are now suffering from losses due to the very low price per kilo of Philippine rubber in the world market. Comparing it to the past years when Philippine rubber was bought at a price of P100 per kilo by local buyers. It is now down to less than P50 or less, almost the same as the price of copra products. What is advantageous for Philippine copra products is  the buying price is stable compared to rubber products whose buying price is abnormal and erratic. Malaysian and Indonesian rubber products command higher price in the world market.There must be a reason why Malaysia and Indonesia cornered the world rubber business. A local buyer of rubber in the city says that Malaysian and Indonesian rubber products have better quality and if processed, their finished products are cleaner and sturdier. Aside from the fact, that Malaysian and Indonesian raw rubber harvested from their plantation, produces more volume of rubber products since it has lesser or none at all,  dirt, soil and other foreign bodies in the rubber sap.

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Why is this so that Malaysian and Indonesian rubber is cleaner and sturdier? In a talk with a rubber technician, who has long retired from the Menzi rubber plantation in Basilan, he thinks there are only two causes: one. it is dirty because rubber plantation laborers who are paid by the kilo of rubber sap, mixed soil, tiny stone pebbles and other foreign materials, to make their rubber sap harvest heavier to command more income and two —  Philippine rubber is weaker and not sturdy when processed because rubber trees are harvested 4 to 5 years old and not wait for the 7-year time table for rubber tree maturity. By all indications, Filipino local rubber plantation laborers destroyed the Philippine rubber world market. In short, they “killed the goose that lays the golden egg”.

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Indonesia and Malaysia rubber plantations are strictly monitored by their government to follow world standard of rubber sap harvest. Their governments assist rubber plantation owners with technicians and subsidizes or offer easy terms of bank loans for the operation of their rubber plantations, even multi-national companies indulged in rubber plantation are given the same offer. This is how they cornered the rubber world market.

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Going back to the rubber grower from Kabasalan. He said that small and medium rubber growers are cutting their still productive rubber for rubber lumber and sell it to lumber yards because they earn better and are now planting hybrid coconut trees that can be productive and ready for harvest in three years. Many in Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga Del Sur rubber plantations are doing the same and diverting to hybrid coconut trees, which they say can be productive for 50 years.

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Zamboanga Del Sur Gov. Antonio H. Cerilles, who owns one of the largest rubber plantations in the province and equipped with his own rubber processing plant, which he owns way back when he was not yet a politician, is growing sweet mangoes and other fruit trees on portions of his rubber plantation that is not planted with rubber trees. Because of the very low buying price per kilo of rubber, Governor Cerilles is diverting to some agricultural ventures that have a ready market domestically.

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Newly appointed Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, also a former governor in Central Mindanao, promised to assist more government assistance for farmers, perhaps he should look into the rubber industry of the Zamboanga Peninsula, which has been the biggest contributor of employment and domestic gross products contributing to the coffers of local governments. He must adopt a two-prong approach to development, self sufficient in food production and promote products for the world market.

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Scoop: Rubber industry must be strictly monitored by our government and assist all rubber  plantation owners with technicians and establish new rubber tree nursery in he region to anticipate the next rubber boom of rubber production in the country, since the world market is still interested in Philippine rubber. Besides rubber tree lumber cannot replace the durability of mahogany and gmelina trees which abounds in Zamboanga Peninsula if not throughout the country. Agree or disagree.