Invest more in rubber processing plants via value-added initiatives and technology, urged Men Sopheak, president of the Rubber Development Association of Cambodia (ARDC) as Cambodia invites foreign tyre manufacturers to set up shop here.

He viewed this as a pertinent step-up in the development of rubber processing, which would enable Cambodia to export higher value-add products in future, rather than the present exports of raw material.

At the opening of Vietnamese-owned C.R.C.K Aphivath Caoutchouc Co Ltd’s semi-finished rubber processing plant in Sandan district, Kampong Thom, on July 28, Sopheak commended the investor’s efforts to establish a high-tech factory.

“It symbolises the joint effort of their employees, construction contractors, equipment suppliers, and partner companies who saw to the completion of the factory,” he said.

A rubber plantation owner and exporter himself, Sopheak appreciated Vietnam Rubber Industry Coalition’s approval for C.R.C.K, owned by Chu Pah Kampong Thom Rubber Processing Factory, to invest in a factory in Cambodia.

Opened by Kampong Thom provincial governor Nguon Rattanak, the plant has a processing capacity of two tonnes per hour, and is hoped to meet the demand for rubber products, increase commodity prices and competitiveness, and ensure production efficiency.

Sopheak is a director for Sopheak Nika Investment Agro-Industrial Plants Co Ltd, which manages about 14,000 hectares of rubber plantations in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces.

The plant’s establishment reflects C.R.C.K’s confidence in the Cambodian economy, he said, adding that it has not only helped the livelihood of people in Sandan but also brought in technology to contribute to the development of this sector.

“We welcome any investment in rubber processing as it’s a sign of confidence by foreign investors in our country.

“In addition, the plant would add value by creating jobs and boosting economic growth, as well as importing modern technology to equip factories, rather than just cultivating rubber and exporting raw materials,” he said.

To date, Cambodia has about 100 latex processing factories and handicrafts, though there were around 160 plants a few years ago.

With the continued operation of rubber tyre factories in Sihanoukville, Kratie and Svay Rieng, locally-processed rubber could be absorbed more in future, he said.

In the first half of this year, rubber and rubber wood exports earned Cambodia nearly $188 million, according to the General Department of Rubber (GDR).

The data also revealed that rubber was priced at $1,344 per tonne in the first six months of 2023, falling $252 per tonne or 15.81 percent from a year ago, while the export price of rubber wood was $306 per cubic metre.

The GDR stated that Cambodia currently has a total rubber plantation area of 404,578 hectares, of which 315,332 hectares or 78 per cent is identified as crop yield area, and 89,246 hectares or 22 percent, consist of immature plants.

In 2022, Cambodia’s total rubber and rubber wood exports amounted to more than $531 million. Of that, rubber exports stood around $528 million.