The export turnover of the rubber industry in 2021 reached US$9.5 billion, including natural rubber, rubber products, and rubber wood. In recent years, the market demand for sustainable natural rubber has posed a great challenge for rubber producers, which requires the improvement of management and production methods, and the application of transparent traceability technology.
The workshop “Connecting to promote sustainable natural rubber production in Vietnam” was organized by Forest Trends, the Vietnam Rubber Association, and Yulex Company on June 17, 2022. (Photo: Internet)
LACK OF RAW MATERIALS, RUBBER LATEX IMPORTS ARE INCREASING MORE AND MORE
Ms. Phan Tran Hong Van, Deputy General Secretary of the Vietnam Rubber Association, said that the area of rubber in Vietnam is 938.8 thousand hectares, accounting for 7.2% of the total global rubber area. Vietnam’s rubber latex harvest reached 1.26 million tonnes in 2021, accounting for 8.7% of the global latex production. The average yield of Vietnam’s rubber reached 1,682 kg/ha, ranking first in Asia.
According to Ms. Phan Tran Hong Van, Vietnam is currently the third-largest rubber exporter in the world, accounting for 17.4% of the total global rubber trade. The export turnover of the rubber industry in 2021, including natural rubber, rubber products, and rubber wood reached US$9.5 billion, up 20.8% compared to 2020.
In particular, natural rubber exports reached more than 1.9 million tonnes in 2021, bringing a value of nearly 3.3 billion USD, u[ 11.7% in volume and 37.5% in value compared to 2020 thanks to an increase of 23% in the average export price. The export turnover of rubber products in 2021 reached US$3.7 billion, up 18.5% compared to 2020. Export of rubber wood also brought more than US$2.5 billion, accounting for 17.1% of the total export of wood and wood products, up 6.9% compared to 2020.
Mr. To Xuan Phuc, a specialist from Forest Trends, said that the area of rubber (mainly from state-owned rubber companies) reached 455,000 hectares, equivalent to nearly 48% of the total rubber area of the country. The remaining 477,000 hectares, or 52%, are household rubber.
Over the past decade, the area of rubber has steadily declined, averaging 10,000 – 20,000 hectares per year, due to companies converting rubber to other crops, or industrial development. As a result, the output did not meet the demand. So, in recent years, Vietnam imported natural rubber from Laos and Cambodia for the processing of rubber products. This imported supply is combined with the domestic supply for export.
Leading the data from the General Department of Customs, Mr. Phuc said that in 2021 Vietnam imported about 1.6 million tonnes of natural rubber with a turnover of 1.9 billion USD. These figures increased by 2.4 times and 2.7 times, respectively, compared to 2020.
“The data showed a very rapid increase in natural rubber imports into Vietnam from Cambodia in recent years. This is unusual because the Cambodian Government is currently discouraging the export of unprocessed rubber by applying an export tax on this commodity of 40%, ” Mr. Phuc emphasized.
According to Mr. To Xuan Phuc, rubber consumption in the world is changing. The regulations of legitimacy and sustainability for rubber inputs are increasingly tightened. Recently, the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) set the Code of Conduct, aiming at the sustainable production, sale, and use of natural rubber.
At the workshop, the representative of Yulex Company – a globally renowned rubber company, said that they conducted some surveys to explore the possibility of promoting sustainable rubber production in Vietnam. Yulex has made strong commitments to cover the output and pay higher than market prices for sustainable natural rubber, particularly FSC-certified rubber.
Representatives of Weber and Schaer company – a global company with 170 years of experience in rubber, headquartered in Germany, also made similar commitments in covering products and paying higher prices for sustainable natural rubber.
“In recent years, the demand of the market for sustainable natural rubber poses a great challenge for rubber producers in terms of improving the method of management, production, application of transparent traceability technology, and reducing costs to increase competitiveness in the low price period which is at risk of lasting for many coming years,” Ms. Phan Tran Hong Van shared.
Vietnam’s rubber is facing many challenges. (Photo: Internet)
SOLVING DIFFICULT PROBLEMS
Facing the market requirements, the Vietnam Rubber Association has proposed an Action Plan for the sustainable development of the rubber industry, encouraging members to develop the Sustainable Development Program in suitable conditions. The Vietnam Rubber Association has developed the certification label “Vietnam Rubber”. Up to now, 82 products of 29 factories belonging to 17 enterprises have been granted the right to use this label.
Many enterprises expressed that smallholder rubber growers are playing an important role in the supply chain. However, traceability activities for the assessment are difficult. The technical level of households is limited. There have been many enterprises signing contracts to purchase products from smallholder rubber growers. However, these links are not tight.
The representative of Lien Anh Rubber Production Co., Ltd mentioned the difficulties of the company and smallholder farmer association model due to the small-scale size: 87% of rubber gardens have an area of less than 3 ha; the number of households with more than 10 ha only accounts for less than 1.5%. Transactions through intermediary traders account for the majority. Farmers easily break their commitments and sell latex to other traders. Therefore, there should be mechanisms to support the development of links between farmers and stakeholders towards transparency, reduction of intermediaries, ensuring fairness, legality, and clear origin.
Experts recommend that each enterprise in the rubber industry should gradually move to integrated farming and forestry, diversify income, and increase the economic efficiency of land use. Advanced technology should be applied to green and clean production throughout the supply chain, regulatory compliance, and effective implementation of strengthening relationships with stakeholders, creating the agreement and local support for sustainable rubber projects.
Enterprises also need to build links and support smallholder rubber farmers to participate in the sustainable rubber development program of enterprises, contributing to building the brand and reputation of Vietnam’s rubber industry.
“The total number of households planting rubber in Vietnam is 265,000. Production of rubber has increased steadily over the years, always accounting for 57% – 62% of the total annual supply of natural rubber in our country. Currently, the productivity of rubber in Vietnam is higher than the average productivity of countries in the region due to the use of new varieties”, Mr. Xuan Phuc said.