MALAYSIA'S rubber exports for this year are set to hit a new high of RM15.5 billion with a 10 per cent expansion, said a senior government official.
Last year, the industry, which employed more than 60,000 people, shipped out RM14.2 billion worth of medical gloves, condoms, cathethers, automotive components, industrial beltings, hoses and sports equipment.
"Our rubber products are sold to more than 180 countries worldwide with the US, Germany and Japan accounting for close to 40 per cent of total exports," said Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (MREPC) chief executive officer Datuk Teo Suat Cheng.
Malaysia is still a major producer of natural rubber, ranking third behind Thailand and Indonesia.
While the industry faces challenges of paying minimum wages to its workers and has to contend with costlier fuel, it is coping well by mechanising manufacturing processes wherever possible.
When asked on the outlook of the industry, she replied that it is favourable. "Our rubber exports are forecast to grow at 10 per cent, driven by robust global demand for medical gloves," Teo said.
MREPC's data show that rubber glove exports make up 70 per cent of total rubber shipments.
She noted that the rubber glove industry is recession-proof. Demand for the medical device remains robust from traditional markets.
"The eurozone debt crisis and the somewhat sluggish US economy is not having any negative impact on rubber glove demand. The healthcare sector continues to buy as it is a necessity."
Rising standards of living in Brazil, Russia, India and China have prompted hospitals and clinics there to place more orders in the interest of rising health and hygiene awareness.
Teo was speaking to reporters here yesterday after officiating at the signing ceremony among the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association, exhibitors and sponsors of International Rubber Glove Conference and Exhibition 2012.
To be held from September 4th to 6th at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the industry gathering, with the theme "Innovation for Sustainability", is expected to attract some 700 international delegates.
Among the main participants at the conference are AFA Technologies Sdn Bhd, Chempro Technology (M) Sdn Bhd, Excelkos Sdn Bhd, Hartalega Holdings Bhd, Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd, Latexx Partners Bhd, Nantex Chemical Industry Co Ltd, Supermax Corp Bhd, Synthomer Sdn Bhd, Top Glove Corp Bhd, Yew Lee Pacific Manufacturer Sdn Bhd and YTY group of companies.