A sharp rebound in international rubber prices has put workers at plantations in Cambodian back to work, and has infused the sector with a rare sense of optimism.
International rubber prices began rising in March from seven-year lows and have seen an upswing of 16 per cent since the start of April on concerns over output and expected pickup in demand from China.
Hang Sreng, director of rubber exporter Long Sreng International, said local rubber prices are responding to surging prices on foreign commodities exchanges.
He said the export price of natural rubber, which bottomed out around $1,050 per tonne, has already risen by $300 to $400 per tonne.
“Rubber prices started increasing since the beginning of April in line with international price rises,” Sreng said. “It is a positive sign for our rubber sector.”
In Tbong Khmum province near the Vietnamese border, rubber farmers have once again begun tapping trees after a months-long lull in production due to depressed market prices, according to Thy Sambo, president of the Tbong Khmum Family Rubber Development Association.
“Farmers have returned to hiring workers to collect rubber latex since the price is gradually climbing,” he said.
“It is a glimmer of hope for rubber farmers after years of disappointment during which some farmers gave up on rubber farming altogether and tore down their plantations [to plant other crops].”
Seang Sarat, vice president of the Memot Family Rubber Development Association, said the price farmers are receiving for natural rubber sheets has shot up about 1,000 riel per kilo to 2,600 riel per kilo in recent months.
He said that rising prices have brought a flood of Vietnamese traders across the border.
“Farmers are now turning their latex into sheet rubber that they can sell to the Vietnamese at a profit,” Sarat said.
“The farmers prefer to sell to the Vietnamese traders rather than local factories because the traders show up at their door offering a better price.”
He added that the rubber is smuggled across the border into Vietnam and beyond, where it is processed into tyres and other products.