Group processing, an essential component of cooperative learning, is required to ensure the development of the rubber industry, said U Khaing Myint, secretary of the Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association (MRPPA).
Myanmar’s rubber producers are not consistent enough in assessing the quality of their products; it varies across farms. Therefore, Myanmar’s rubber is always sold at a price lower than the actual market price. To remedy this situation, we need to adopt the group processing system, he added.
“Thailand has many small-scale rubber farms like us. However, they organise manufacturing by group processing and setting up a factory on 300-400 acres. It results in consistency and quality. The rubber farms here produce individually, not assuring the quality of the product. Meanwhile, different qualities can result in difficulties in the manufacturing process, such as chemical formulation. Therefore, our rubber does not fetch a good price,” said U Khaing Myint.
To implement group processing, rubber sellers are conducting a series of discussions, as it cannot happen with their sole efforts and they need the participation of rubber associations and related departments, he continued.
“We need to set up cooperatives for this. Small-scale farms should be organised to establish cooperatives by arranging set land areas of 300 to 500 acres, in cooperation with the cooperatives department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and the commerce ministry. With the government’s support and contribution, the rubber industry will surely improve if quality ribbed smoked sheets are produced,” said U Khaing Myint.
Group processing will result in quality consistency if rubber latex is sent to the respective rubber sheet smoking and rubber latex production factories.
At present, the ethnic-owned Rubber Smoked Sheet Factory established in Taninthayi Region is purchasing and processing rubber. With the Mon State government’s loan, rubber producers are planning to set up 28 standard rubber sheet factories. Kayin State has four similar ones.
As Myanmar rubber is of inferior quality, it is sold at US$350-400 lower than the global market price. If 92 per cent of rubber farms pursue this cooperative system, rubber quality will improve and it will scale up pricing, U Khaing Myint maintained.
After improving the quality control process, pedigree rubber trees should be grown. Myanmar has many rubber varieties, which produce an annual average yield of 500, 700, 1,000, 1,600 and 1,800 pounds per acre. Most of them choose a rubber variety, which produces 700 pounds of latex. The yield differs from farm to farm. The neighbouring countries produce 1,600 pounds on an average per acre, while India produces 1,800 pounds. Myanmar needs to select pedigree varieties, which produce 1,600-1,800 pounds per acre, he noted.
However, rubber farm owners can face difficulties from replanting new rubber varieties with increased capital. Also, they have to wait for a period of time for latex production.
The world’s leading rubber producing countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia and India, have set up a self fund to assist rubber replanting and researching, contributing input costs, including cultivation cost, rubber plants, and fertilisers, financed primarily by some per cent of the export earnings, said U Khaing Myint.
Currently, a Rubber Law has been drafted to promote the rubber sector, with the emergence of a rubber central market and other development activities incorporated into it.