Rubber industry experts and government officials from ASEAN member countries gathered in Siem Reap yesterday to agree on harmonised standards for rubber products that would facilitate cross-border trade.
The Asean Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) Rubber-Based Product Working Group (RBPWG) agreed to 61 harmonised standards during the meeting, according to Chan Borin, general-director of the Institute of Standards.
He said about a third of these new standards applied to rubber products, while the remainder applied to testing methodology. The committee and working group also formulated guidelines for labs and an assessment body that will issue a certificate of standards compliance.
“If we want the free flow of goods we have to use the same standard that all other ASEAN countries accept,” he said.
Borin said adopting the same industry standards as other ASEAN member countries would encourage investors to establish rubber factories in Cambodia.
“Then our natural rubber would have its own market and we would be able to export finished products to ASEAN and international markets,” he said. “Our rubber price would not be dependent on other markets.”
Men Sopheak, director of Sopheak Nika Investment Group, which operates a large rubber plantation in Kampong Cham province, said harmonised standards play an important role in promoting rubber products in the domestic market, but were only one part of the equation for attracting investment in the struggling sector.
“It is not only standards that attract investors to invest here, there are other factors such as market opportunities and investment laws, and how ours compare to neighbouring countries,” he said.
Sopheak said his company’s existing factory only produced semi-processed rubber products, but he would ideally prefer to produce finished products.
“I used to seek investors to set up a factory here, but had no success,” he said.
International rubber prices have fallen sharply in recent years as a result of a glut in global supply. Cambodia’s natural rubber exports topped 124,000 tonnes in 2015, a 24 per cent increase over the previous year, but the value of the shipments fell by about 2.5 per cent to $150 million, according to Ministry of Agriculture data.