Global rubber output likely to fall 5.1%

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Dec 2 2009, 05:05am hrs
Global natural rubber production in 2009 could dip by almost 5.1% as compared to last year as flash floods and rains induced by climate change pulled down rubber output, the ANRPC (Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries)a grouping of 10 main rubber producing nations including India said Monday.

Though the association failed to initiate any impact analysis on climate change, experts believe that given the severity of the problem, world production might be further revised downwards after the November data is updated.

Once November data is also updated, natural rubber production estimates for 2009 may be revised downwards, ANRPC secretary general Dhoko Damardjati said.

The impact of continuous rains in four major rubber producing countries ( Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and India ) in November is yet to be assessed, he added.

Unusually heavy rains during November 2009 had hit rubber supply in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and India .

Rubber plantations in Thailand s southern region and the north of Malaysia have been badly affected by flooding caused by torrential rains throughout November, the APERC said.

This indicates the possibility of a substantial downward revision in the anticipated production for November 2009 and for the year 2009, the association added.

In 2008, ANRPC members had produced around 9.15 million tonne of natural rubber, which is expected to drop to around 8.68 million tonne in 2009.

After the November rain, experts believe that the total shortfall could be much more than earlier estimates of 4.7 lakh tonne.

The eight ANRPC members including India supply around 93% of the world rubber demand.

Out of these, only Cambodia, China and Sri Lanka estimate 84%, 18% and 3.1% growth in rubber production in 2009, compared to 2008.

All the big producers like Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are expected to post negative annual growth of 18%, 6.9%, 6.8%, 4.1% and 2% respectively.

Officials said the impact of climate change on the rubber supply emerged a big concern at the annual meeting of ANRPC held recently in Vietnam .

Besides, the obvious shrink in latex yield, rubber producers are also worried by the changes that make traditional rubber growing pockets less suitable for rubber growth.

Natural rubber prices are easily influenced by vagaries in South East Asian climate. Moderate climate round the year has given way to long dry spells alternating with heavy rains, a senior scientist at the state-run Rubber Board told FE.

Data show that the number of cool days in the whole of South-east Asia has come down in the last decade.

In Kottayam, the heartland of India s rubber production, the frequency of hot days (average temperature of 36.1 degree Celsius) has shot up five times in 1956 to 2007 period, according to a study paper by the Rubber Research Institute of India .

Meanwhile, worlds biggest rubber producers have yet not overcome their inertia in coming out with workable solutions on the challenges posed by climate change on rubber output.

Policy makers in some ANRPC member countries had earlier mooted special divisions to run climate risk analysis studies so that rubber output can be optimized using error-proof forecasts, but the suggestions still now are largely on paper.