Malaysia aims to make a comeback as the world's largest rubber producer, with the opening of more plantations in Sabah and Sarawak.
Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan said the country used to be the No. 1 producer globally in the mid-80s but was now in third spot.
Currently, Thailand is the world's No. 1 in terms of production, followed by Indonesia.
“The Government is placing emphasis on producing more rubber in Malaysia by not only concentrating on Peninsular Malaysia but also Sabah and Sarawak,” he said after opening the Fifth International Plastics and Rubber Trade Fair Malaysia (M-PLAS) 2011, here yesterday.
According to the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC), total world natural rubber production this year is expected to be at 9.95 million tonnes, up by 4.9% from 9.49 million tonnes in 2010.
Thailand was expected to produce 3.35 million tonnes, followed by Indonesia with 2.95 million tonnes and Malaysia contributing about 975,000 tonnes this year, it said.
Apart from the three countries, the ANRPC members are India, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Cambodia, which collectively control about 92% of the commodity's global supply.
During the tabling of Budget 2012 last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had announced an allocation for planting new areas with rubber trees as well as the rubber replanting scheme.
He said the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority will carry out the implementation of new plantations and rubber replanting programmes with an allocation of RM140mil benefiting 20,000 smallholders.
“This allocation will provide opportunities for smallholders to plant more rubber trees in the future,” Jacob said.
He said that looking at the price at the moment, the future for rubber is bright.
“The price will continue to rise, translating into more revenue for the country, while having a positive impact on smallholders,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers' Association executive director Kong Ping Yee said the reason behind Malaysia's fall from the top spot in respect of rubber production was the shift in interest towards downstream activities and higher returns from palm oil.
“We see the target to be No. 1 again as something realistic, especially with more new rubber plantations coming up. Although at third spot in terms of production, we are quite strong in downstream activities,” he added.
Earlier Jacob said the rubber industry had contributed RM12.8bil to the country's export earnings in 2010, and rubber products accounted for 2% of Malaysia's total exports.