International experts and Cambodian officials expressed confidence Friday that the rubber market and revenues would significantly increase in the years to come, as Phnom Penh played host to the Third Asean Rubber Conference.
Around 400 rubber experts, producers, buyers and sellers turned up at the InterContinental Hotel for the three-day conference, which ends Saturday.
According to a recent study by the Association for Rubber Development in Cambodia, 60,000 tons of natural rubber was exported by Cambodia last year at a value of $83 million, but that still represents less than one percent of the rubber produced globally.
Cabinet Minister Sok An told the conference that the market price for natural rubber had skyrocketed over the last six years from $500 per ton in 2001 to around $2,000 per ton in 2007.
Natural rubber prices should remain strong so long as oil prices —petroleum being used to create synthetic rubber—continue to be high, he said.
Sok An added that Cambodia has 500,000 hectares of land with soil conditions ideal for rubber trees.
“We have potential with the land, but we have not used it well,” he said.
Teng Lao, secretary of state at the Agriculture Ministry in charge of rubber, said that Cambodia currently has around 70,000 hectares devoted to rubber cultivation, but substantial expansion of production is expected.
“Our estimate for 2015, the planting areas in total…can be up to 150,000 hectares, and production will be 150,000 tons,” Teng Lao said.
Hidde Smith, secretary-general for the secretariat of the UK-based International Rubber Study Group, said rubber prices will continue to increase because of rising demand for car tires in Europe, China and India.
Chen Ke Xix, senior economist at China’s Ministry of International Trade and Logistics, said that his country’s increasing demand for rubber has had a hand in raising rubber prices to new highs in the first half of 2007.
Chen said China imported a total of 1.73 million tons of rubber during the first four months of this year, only 1,844 of which—about $3.3-million worth—were from Cambodia.