Cambodia: Despite volatile prices, rubber exports rise by 37 percent

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Cambodia: Despite volatile prices, rubber exports rise by 37 percent

A man harvesting rubber in a plantation in Cambodia. KT/Ven Rathavong

Shipments of Cambodian rubber abroad increased by nearly 36 percent in 2017, amounting to 190,000 tonnes, according to a senior official at the general directorate of rubber.

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Pol Sopha, the director-general of the general directorate of rubber at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Khmer Times that in 2017 Cambodia exported 50,000 more tonnes of rubber than in the year before.

“The amount of rubber exports continue to increase every year, with our biggest markets being Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and China,” he said, noting also that land used for rubber plantations is also on the rise, with 7,000 hectares across the country dedicated to the commodity.

Mr Sopha said rubber has been facing very unstable prices in the international market. In the last months of 2016, a tonne was selling for $1,700, but from January to March of 2017 it was being traded at $2,200. In December 2017, the price went down to $1,600.

He added that the price of the commodity will be increasing in upcoming years.

“The price of rubber will be rising again soon. Famers and companies need to understand that the price is volatile,” he said.

Mr Sopha said that plantations had been harvesting a large amount of rubber, expressing optimism for the expansion of the industry.

“We have few rubber processing factories in the country and the government wants to build more to keep the price of the commodity stable,” Mr Sopha said.

The government is now prioritising building rubber factories as a way to boost employment in the country, he said.

Lim Heng, the vice-president of rubber exporter An Mady Group, echoed the same sentiments, and called on the government to put mechanisms in place to facilitate the exportation process and attract more investors.

“Our main markets are now Vietnam and Malaysia. We urge the government to work with China in order make it easier for them to buy our rubber,” he said.

“We need more investors from Vietnam, China, Thailand and South Korea. Local investors are afraid their products won’t find a market because they are lacking recognisable brand names and quality.”

Cofco, China’s largest food processor, manufacturer and trader, announced last month plans to set up a working group in the kingdom to explore the possibilities available in the local agricultural market, including expanding the number of products it imports from Cambodia and investing in local infrastructure.

Rubber is among the many Cambodian agricultural products that Cofco has expressed an interest in.

The announcement was made during a meeting in Beijing last Thursday between Yim Chhayly, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the Cambodian Agricultural and Rural Development Council, and Patrick Yu, Cofco’s chariman.

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