Business Times

Rubber plantations soon in the dry North

By Quintus Perera

Long term plans are underway to grow rubber in Sri Lanka’s war-free Northern region even though it is a dry area as experiments there have proved that this is possible, a top expert said. This comment was made by Dr Asoka Nugawela, Director, Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka, when he addressed the members of the Colombo Rubber Traders Association at its 91st AGM held in Colombo this week.

He said natural rubber has a good future with demand rising in the international market and noted that yields could be increased by 40 % using new technology in rubber tapping methods in which output rises by 20 % and by proper application of fertilizer which adds another 20% to production.

He said that growing trends in consumption continued except in 2009 due to the global recession and India and China are showing continuous, rising demand for natural rubber due to their growth. He said that bulk of the rubber consumption is from Asian countries with India and China consuming around 1/3 to ½ of the total consumption.

Dr Nugawela said that the weather plays a major role in the tapping of rubber and due to rain rubber latex gets washed off. He said that this could be prevented with the use of the new method of putting guards. Dr Gamini Wickramasinghe, Chairman, Bank of Ceylon, speaking as the chief guest said that opportunities exist in India and through the recovering industrialized economies of the west and Americas.

He said that besides opportunities that support the rubber industry in Sri Lanka, there are some constraints to prevent the development of rubber products industry. Some issues to be concerned are that Sri Lankan rubber industries have traditionally relied on a cheap labour force and that there is lack of linkage in innovation. He said Research and Development (R&D) investment should be enhanced if Sri Lanka is to be competitive in the Asian region.

M. S. Rahim, who was re-elected as the Chairman, CRTA said that the Sri Lankan natural rubber production increased by 6% to reach 137 million kilograms and is expected to increase as new plantations start producing in the Moneragala district.

He said that the higher price outlay for rubber, besides costs of almost all other materials including transport, wages, increased bank charges and debit tax payable on much higher rubber purchase value, has been a burden on the exporter. He urged the reduction of interest rates which would be a welcome move for the industry.

With a little help from exchange rates, rubber exporters have had to market their products competitively with prices on par with other exporting countries.

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