The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to establish a museum in Tbong Khmum province to promote the history of rubber cultivation and the industry in Cambodia.

During a visit to the Cambodian Rubber Research Institute on January 24, minister Dith Tina said one particular plantation in Tbong Khmum district’s Chiror 2 commune has 500 rubber trees that are more than 100 years old and should be included on the National Heritage List.

“We need to protect and preserve the rubber plantations here for our national heritage. In the future we will set up a museum to help further rubber research and development in Cambodia,” he said.

According to the ministry, the nearly 17,000ha Chub Rubber Plantation was established in 1922 by a local company named Compagnie du Cambodge, and of the trees planted in the beginning, a mere 477 remain, across just 14ha of land.

However, the minister urged expert officials to inspect and preserve those old rubber trees properly by labelling and numbering each tree because it is obviously of very hardy stock and could be useful for research and development and further seed production.

At the same time, he advised expert institutions and relevant units that are partners in this field to increase the production of new varieties of rubber trees for farmers and to pay attention to the experiments to improve liquid resin.

Men Sopheak, managing director of the Sopheak Nika Investment Group Co Ltd, one of the largest rubber growers and exporters in Cambodia, expressed his enthusiasm for the museum project and said that the rubber plantation is home to a number of good varieties.

“Chub Rubber Plantation was the first large rubber plantation in Cambodia. I support the transformation of this plantation into a rubber museum and a place for the research and development of rubber plantations in Cambodia,” he said.

According to Lim Khan Tiva, director of the Cambodian Rubber Research Institute, who is an expert on rubber breeding, clone selection and differentiated rubber production, Cambodian rubber has the potential to adapt to climate change with high yields and good growth in accordance with the environmental conditions of the country.

However, Sopheak said that the rubber varieties that are used in Cambodia are mostly the 20 varieties imported from other countries, especially Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

At present, Cambodia has 404,578ha dedicated to rubber production, with 315,332ha or 78 per cent mature and tapped for latex, according to a report from the agriculture ministry’s General Directorate of Rubber.

According to Tina, there remain “477 oldest” rubber trees which were planted in 1924.

“Those 99-year-old trees are our gene pool for [research and development] of new rubber variety. To date, we have two varieties that are promising in term of yield per tree,” he said in a January 25 tweet.