Local rubber producers yesterday expressed little enthusiasm to attend this year’s Global Rubber Conference, which opens today in Ho Chi Minh City, voicing pessimism about the gloomy market for natural rubber and scepticism on whether the conference would yield any solutions to producers’ pricing problems.
Among those reportedly not attending the annual industry event is Mak Kim Hong, president of the Cambodian Rubber Association and director of the Chub rubber plantation in Kampong Cham province.
“He [Kim Hong] does not see much use [in attending the conference], as we have already discussed our issues, but there is no solution so far,” said Sorn Kongmean, financial director at Chub rubber plantation.
“Instead, he asked the association’s members to go and report back to him, however, we don’t know who is going.”
Kongmean, who will attend as Chub’s representative, said he only plans to meet other rubber producers and customers, as any discussion about price issues plaguing the global rubber industry would be futile.
World prices of natural rubber have plummeted over the last four years due to slower demand in China and a glut of supply. Processed natural rubber in Cambodia currently fetches about $1,300 per tonne, about a third of historic 2011 highs and with no rebound in sight.
“Oil prices are low, so they are using oil to produce [synthetic] rubber,” Kongmean said. “Before, they produced 40 per cent of rubber from oil. Now they are using oil for 70 per cent of production.”
Leng Thyvuth, accounting director at the Krek Rubber Plantation, said as long as low oil prices persist, he does not expect any solutions to be reached.
As such, his firm would not be sending any representatives to today’s conference.
The Cambodian government has also sent its regrets to organisers. Pol Sopha, deputy director-general of the General Directorate of Rubber at the Agriculture Ministry, said the international conference was primarily focused on the private sector, so the government would not send any representatives to attend.
The Global Rubber Conference 2015, hosted this year by the Vietnam Rubber Group, is an industry-wide meeting of government officials, rubber plantation owners and producers, manufacturers of rubber products and commodities analysts, aimed at discussing issues, challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
Cambodia has cultivated rubber trees on an area of about 330,000 hectares, though only about 60,000 hectares contain trees mature enough to yield latex.
Local producers exported 90,000 tonnes of dry rubber in the first nine months of 2015, about 20,000 tonnes more than it did during the same period last year, Agriculture Ministry data.