DA seeks more investors in PHL rubber industry

To expand the Philippine rubber industry, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said is currently on the lookout for investors who can manufacture other rubber-based materials, such as condoms.

Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) Executive Director Rodolfo L. Galang said the Philippines is “a viable and healthy market” for condom manufacturers. The PRRI is an attached agency of the DA.

“We need to look for an investor, a condom manufacturer, because we don’t have such in the country. We have a big population and all of our condoms are being imported from Malaysia and Thailand,” Galang told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

“There’s really a potential for such market here. Actually, we even have a program wherein the Department of Health is distributing condoms, and still we are importing the condom products,” he added.

Galang said the country needs a plant that would process latex, a material needed in manufacturing condom. Citing PRRI data, he said there are currently 25 natural rubber-processing plants in the country, which mostly cater to tire manufacturers.

If the DA succeeds in jump-starting a local condom manufacturing industry, then it would generate more jobs and help control the country’s population growth, Galang said.

“And economically speaking, instead of importing the product, we would have now our own locally produced ones. We would earn more,” Galang said.

He said other rubber-producing countries have put up various processing and manufacturing plants as a strategy to control the price of rubber.

“Because the price of rubber has dropped in the past four years, the strategy of the members of the Association of Natural Rubber-Producing Countries [ANRPC] is to increase local consumption. Meaning, putting up more manufacturing plants for different products,” he said.

Galang also said the government is scouting for potential investors who can manufacture health-related products, such as medical gloves and catheters, as well as household gloves.

“The feasibility study on these might take long, but we are hopeful that by 2019 we could already attract potential investors,” Galang said.

Galang added that the local rubber industry is underdeveloped compared to those in other Asian countries despite the fact that the Philippines produces more rubber.

“Our rubber industry is underdeveloped compared to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. They have a more developed industry, particularly their manufacturing industries,” Galang said.

“They do not sell raw rubber anymore in their local market and they are even importing raw materials outside,” he added.

Citing data from ANRPC, Galang said the Philippines’s rubber production in 2016 grew by 10 percent to 110,000 metric tons (MT), from 100,000 MT recorded in 2015.

“We are producing enough for our yearly requirement, around 110,000 MT a year, but our consumption, according to our data, is only around 30,000 MT,” he said.

Galang the remaining figure–around 80,000 MT—was exported to Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and China.

Galang said added that he expects the country’s rubber production to grow by at least 2 percent this year. “There would be greater harvest coming from the plantations, which have matured already, those were planted in 2010 and 2011.”

“But still, we have to replant more because there are old plantations, let’s say around 50,000 hectares that  need replanting. These plantations have very low productivity that’s why we are looking at an intensified replanting activity,” he added.

Galang said the PRRI is targetting to replant rubber in 15,000 hectares of plantations this
year.