Cambodia netted more than $103.2 million from the export of natural rubber latex in the first quarter of 2022, up by $10.1 million or 10.9 per cent year-on-year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia.
Exports of the milky white sap, extracted from the Hevea brasiliensis tree native to Brazil, over the January-March period weighed in at 61,839 tonnes, up by 783 tonnes or 1.28 per cent year-on-year, affirmed a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery’s General Directorate of Rubber (GDR).
The report also noted that domestic and international sales of rubber wood notched up 2,130 cubic metres worth $586,700 during the same period. For reference, the GDR earlier reported that in January-February, 808 cubic metres of rubber wood worth $355,946 were exported, an increase of 66 per cent by volume.
GDR director-general Him Aun told The Post that the average price of rubber last month was $1,627 per tonne, up $44 from February, indicating that the $1,594-1,627 range seen over the first quarter was considered a fairly decent rate for growers.
He attributed the uptick in rubber latex sales and prices to a “strong market” with demand from foreign buyers and a greater number of trees mature enough to be tapped. He said that, of the 410,000ha under rubber cultivation, over 310,000ha are tapped areas.
Although GDR experts had determined that Cambodia’s two active car tyre factories – in Preah Sihanouk and Svay Rieng provinces – would require substantial amounts of rubber, the plants have yet to source local latex as planned, relying instead solely on imported compounded rubber, due to a lack of necessary equipment to make the raw material in-house, he added.
Still, Aun affirmed that the GDR was keen to work with the operators to procure natural rubber latex from local businesses and farmers, suggesting that memorandums of understanding could be on the table in the near future.
Going forward, he expects Cambodia to cut down on exports of raw rubber in favour of semi-finished and finished products.
Chea Sakhin, president of the 36-household strong Memot District Family Rubber Agricultural Cooperative, said rubber trees are growing “better” and have yielded more latex due to early rains and other “favourable weather”.
He said that farmers have gradually started tapping their trees early this month, motivated by the inflated prices of the commodity recorded at the beginning of this year.
“In general, early-harvest rubber tends to fetch great prices since demand is high and yields are still low. However, members of the cooperative have been hesitant to expand their cultivation areas due to persistent market instability, the lingering Covid-19 crisis and rising land prices.
“It was also less windy in the beginning of this year compared to last year, resulting in minimal damage to the rubber. Our cooperative wants more rubber processing plants, to help buy latex from farmers and stabilise prices and markets in the long run,” Sakhin said.