Latex being poured into a storage tank at a Cambodian rubber plantation. KT/Chor Sokunthea
General Directorate of Rubber Director-General Pol Sopha, noted this was an increase over the 280,000 tonnes exported in 2019 and that the growth rate of rubber exports is expected to increase through 2024. Sopha said it is anticipating that yearly increases will be in the range of 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes because some rubber trees will no longer be capable of generating latex during that period and will need to be cut down for replanting to take place.
Sopha added that it takes six years for newly planted rubber trees to mature and provide a latex harvest.
“[Currently] more than 410,000 hectares of rubber trees [in the nation] are under cultivation [and of this], around 290,000 hectares of the trees can be tapped for latex,” he said.
The director-general went on to say that Cambodia sent around 60 percent of its rubber production to Vietnam, with most of the remainder exported to China, Malaysia, Singapore and Europe. “Most of our rubber exports are processed rubber, but there are also exports of latex across the border corridor where some farmers sell their latex production.”
Association for Rubber Development of Cambodia (ARDC) President Men Sopheak said the price of rubber in Cambodia is seen now as promising. He added that local companies can sell it for up to $1,700 per tonne, with the majority of producers sending product on to Vietnam.
When asked whether investors were looking at opportunities to produce finished rubber products in Cambodia, Sopheak said many had shown interest in setting up factories, but rubber production in Cambodia is small compared with that of Vietnam and Thailand, where there are between 2 to 3 million hectares of rubber plantations. He said Cambodia’s half million hectares of plantations make it difficult to justify the investment in processing factories.
“Recently, some rubber plantations were completely logged out and replanted to other purposes because of falling rubber prices and there is a lack of available labour in the industry. These factors also present challenges to investors,” Sopheak added.
The Vietnam News reported last week that Vietnam produces around 1.1 million tonnes of natural rubber each year. Sixty percent of the raw material needed for that production comes from small farming households, with imports of another half a million tonnes from Cambodia and Laos making up the remainder.