Malaysia's rubber exports are set to jump 30 per cent to RM32 billion this year, thanks to relatively bouyant pricings of natural latex and the synthetic variant.
"In the first eight months of this year, total rubber exports already amounted to RM21.66 billion. That's about 28 per cent more than the same eight months of last year," said Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) director-general Datuk Dr Salmiah Ahmad.
She was speaking to Business Times after Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok witnessed the signing of a collaboration deal between MRB and Doshin Rubber Products (M) Sdn Bhd to design and supply high density rubber bearings (HDRB) to protect the Second Penang Bridge from potential earthquake and tsunami tremors.
Package 2 of the Second Penang Bridge, which covers the segment of the bridge over the sea, is the first job to commercially adopt this HDRB technology.
Upon completion, this bridge, measuring 24km, would be the longest in Southeast Asia connecting Batu Kawan, Seberang Prai, on Peninsular Malaysia and Batu Maung on Penang Island.
"The HDRB design was carried out by our scientists at Sungai Buloh and the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre, London," said Salmiah.
MRB data show that last year rubber exports amounted to RM24.67 billion, 49 per cent more than 2009's RM16.59 billion.
Salmiah said the rubber sector contributes about five per cent to the country's export earnings. In ensuring a more stable supply of latex to downstream businesses, the government is accelerating replanting and new plantings of rubber trees.
The government has tasked Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority and Sabah Rubber Industry Board to replant 40,000ha of land every year.
Dompok said the government has set aside RM194.723 million for the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) Rubber Development Project 2011-2012.
"This huge allocation for the rubber sector shows that the government never neglect the rural people, especially those involved in the rubber industry," he said.