Cambodia exported 242,922 tonnes of natural rubber latex in the first 10 months of this year, representing a 21.3 per cent surge from the same period last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Rubber reported.
The commodity reeled in $318.5 million in revenue for the period January-October, up 19.7 per cent from the $266 million logged in the same period last year, the directorate said.
As of the end of October, rubber plantations in Cambodia accounted for a total of 401,433ha. Of this, 289,837ha (72 per cent) are tapped for latex, while 111,496ha are “under maintenance”, or in their immature phase yet to deliver a first harvest, it said.
The average per-tonne value of the exports during the first 10 months of this year was $1,311, it added.
This was up from the $1,288 figure it gave for the period January-September, which it noted was down from $1,339 for the same period last year.
General Directorate of Rubber director-general Pol Sopha told The Post on November 30 that while rubber cultivation has not increased in recent years, output and exports have increased every year.
He said this signals that more of the Kingdom’s rubber trees have reached the age of exploitation. “This is the main reason for the increase in the volume of Cambodian rubber exports, as production is entirely dependent on international markets.”
He said trees are on average five years old before tapping for rubber begins and may be tapped for 25 years.
But the relatively low prices compared to last year have forced growers to devote more land to other lucrative crops such as bananas, mangoes and cashew nuts, diminishing the area allotted for rubber plantations, he lamented.
While the selling price at Ho Chi Minh City port had been $2,050 per tonne more than a month ago, it has since slipped to around $1,800, according to Sopha.
Heng Sreng, the general manager of rubber producer and exporter Long Sreng International Co Ltd, said his company’s exports have seen a slight jump this year from 2019 on the back of increasing orders and a tax break provided by the government in March.
He said rising prices earlier this year and a surge of new orders had encouraged latex-tapping across the Kingdom.
“Cambodian rubber exports will continue to increase this year as orders continue to pursue a gradual upward trajectory,” Sreng said.
Long Sreng International owns the Boeung Ket Rubber Plantation in Stung Trang district’s Prek Kak commune in Kampong Cham province.
A sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on March 8 stipulates that exports of rubber valued under $1,400 per tonne are not taxable. Shipments valued between $1,400 and $3,500 per tonne will be taxed $25 to $200 per tonne.
Men Sopheak, the owner and director of Sopheak Nika Investment Agro-Industrial Plants Co Ltd, a leading rubber grower and exporter, said this year’s rubber market was stronger than last year.
Lamenting not having increased his company’s cultivation area to capitalise on the thriving market, he said the current price of rubber is $200 more than in the year-ago period.
He said his company’s exports gained around five per cent in the first 10 months of this year.
He added that he expects global demand to remain strong until the end of the year, setting the market on a growth path into the new year.
The Kingdom’s rubber exports last year weighed in at 282,071 tonnes, up 30 per cent from 2018, according to the ministry.
The shipments were to the tune of $377 million, up 32 per cent from the $286 million logged in 2018, statistics show.
And according to Sopha, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, China and the EU are the main markets for Cambodian rubber.
Though the trees – also known by their botanical name Hevea brasiliensis – are native to the Amazon rainforest, 97 per cent of the world’s natural rubber comes from Southeast Asia, Honolulu, US-based research organisation East-West Center reported in 2014.
Rubber plantations covered 94,282sq km of the Southeast Asian highlands then, or eight per cent of the region, and could increase four-fold by 2050, it said.