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‘Not too bad’ 2023 seen for rubber sector despite Q1 slip

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A man collects rubber latex at a plantation in Ratanakkiri province’s Bakeo district. Yousos Apdoulrashim

‘Not too bad’ 2023 seen for rubber sector despite Q1 slip

Cambodia netted $89.556 million from the export of rubber latex and wood in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023, down nearly one-tenth year-on-year, new data from the General Directorate of Rubber (GDR) showed, as pundits highlighted the extent of the dependence of prices for Cambodian rubber on international markets.

In the January-March period, Cambodia’s international sales of natural rubber latex came to 65,921 tonnes worth $89.076 million, which was up 4,182 tonnes or 6.8 per cent year-on-year, while those of rubber wood totalled 2,306 cubic metres valued at $480,261, reported the GDR, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

For comparison, local reports from a year ago – which cited GDR figures – said the Kingdom’s Q1 2022 exports of natural rubber latex came to 61,839 tonnes worth $98.560 million, while those of rubber wood totalled 836 cubic metres valued at $586,700.

However, the GDR put the average per-tonne value of the Q1 2023 rubber latex exports at $1,351, which it said was down $243 year-on-year. This indicates that both the figures for the tonnage and value of the Q1 2022 latex exports have been revised down slightly – the latter of which should now fall in the range of $98.348-98.476 million, accounting for rounding.

Similarly, Customs (GDCE) has put Q1 exports of “rubber and articles thereof” – corresponding to Chapter 40 of the harmonised system (HS) – at $168.101 million, representing a 42.83 per cent increase year-on-year. By month, the figures were respectively given as $54.234 million, $58.965 million and $54.902 million.

GDR head Him Aun blamed the drop in demand and prices on a weak worldwide market, the US’ rising interest rates and its monetary tightening on financial conditions, and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, as well as the overall state of global economic instability, explaining that exports account for practically all of the Cambodian rubber sector’s revenues.

“Although Cambodia’s rubber exports are currently declining, according to projections from the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, rubber prices won’t be so bad in 2023,” he told The Post on April 19.

However, the total rubber cultivation nationwide has seen “minimal” growth in recent years, he lamented.

Major buyers of Cambodian latex include Vietnam, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and the EU, he said.

In a recent interview with The Post, Men Sopheak, director of rubber grower-cum-exporter Sopheak Nika Investment Agro-Industrial Plants Co Ltd, largely hung the market’s woes on Covid, claiming that headwinds from geopolitical tensions are eroding global demand, and are at the root of falling rubber prices the world over.

“Global economic factors, geopolitical issues caused by the war in Ukraine, and the confrontation between China and Taiwan have been exacerbating the drop in rubber demand,” he stressed, commenting that the Chinese are big buyers of the commodity.

According to the GDR, Cambodia last year exported 372,900 tonnes or rubber latex worth $527.775 million – up 6,600 tonnes year-on-year – and 26,489 cubic metres of rubber wood valued at $4.089 million.

As of end-2022, the Kingdom devoted 404,578ha of land to rubber cultivation, 315,322ha or 77.94 per cent of that being tapped for latex.


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