Malaysia, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the global output of rubber gloves, now targets to increase the market share by five per cent in three years. The National Key Economic Areas roadmap aims to boost Malaysia’s market share of rubber gloves to 65 per cent by 2020.

According to a report published in the Web Portal Rubber Journal Asia, export of rubber gloves jumped 25 per cent to RM 7.95 billion against RM 5.28 billion in the first half of 2017 over the same period last year.

Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, Minister of the Plantation Industries and Commodities said that the sector is expected to clinch a fullyear export sales value of RM 16 billion, or a 20 per cent increase, compared to RM 13.28 billion posted for the full year of 2016.

In September, Malaysia reportedly exported RM 19.1 billion of rubber during the first seven months of 2017. The rubber exports could potentially cross RM27 billion this year on account of a fireball global demand.

In August, Malaysia exported to more than 195 countries; and rubber gloves accounted for 73 per cent to RM 13.3 billion of the RM 18.2 billion value of rubber product exports for the year, said the report by Rubber Journal Asia.

Companies on an Investment spree

Shah Alam-headquartered Top Glove, the world’s largest rubber glove manufacturer, has targeted the opening of three factories in Klang by end of 2018, to serve an anticipated increase in global demand between six to eight per cent annually. Top Glove also entering the sexual wellness business with an investment of RM 75 million for the first phase of its condom production beginning August 2018. The move is meant to increase the company’s market share to 30 per cent in 2020 from 25 per cent.

Hartalega, a major player in nitrile gloves, is completing its RM 2.2 billion-Integrated Glove Manufacturing Complex (NGC) in Sepang. The facility will comprise six factories installed with 72 production lines that can produce more than 28 billion gloves/year. Hartalega expects an increased production capacity by 27 billion pieces in the first quarter of 2018.

Supermax, which exports to more than 155 countries worldwide and accounts for 12 per cent of the global requirement for latex examination gloves, has expanded its product offerings to include the manufacture of contact lenses. The company has earmarked an estimated RM 2.4 billion on capital expenditure over the next 15 years for its glove and contact lens manufacturing operations. It also expects to increase its glove manufacturing capacity to 45 billion pieces from the current 24 billion pieces.
Klang-based Kossan Rubber Industries, which currently produces some 22 billion gloves/year, has pumped up its R&D activities.

Unexpected challenges

Late last year, the Malaysian glove industry forecast a bullish domestic and global market at the beginning of 2017, which it had anticipated would favour the local-based glove makers. However, during the early months of 2017, events took a turn for the worse, and the sector found itself pressed with tight materials supply and price hikes of raw materials, such as nitrile (NBR) and natural rubber (NR).

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) confirmed that the prices of rubber went up by more than 55 per cent. Therefore, glove prices had to be adjusted to as much as 15 per cent to buffer profit margins.