The 11th Annual Rubber Conference of Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC), hosted by the Government of Thailand, was held in Chiang Rai on October 8, 2018 with the theme “Adapting for the emerging mega trends”. There were 187 participants from 11 countries, including 93 from Thailand.
The inaugural session started with a welcome address by Somboon Siriwech, Deputy Governor of Chiang Rai Province.

Emerging challenges

In his address, Tran Ngoc Thuan, Chairman, ANRPC, and Director General, Vietnam Rubber Group, said to sustain in the fast-changing dynamic world, it is a prerequisite for the natural rubber production sector to adapt to the emerging changes.
“More than 70% of the world demand for natural rubber comes from transportation industry. The next few years are likely to witness major changes in the transportation industry due to possible emergence of electric trucks, electric/hybrid buses, intelligent public transportation system, and autonomous driving,” he said.
Increasing dependence on electric vehicles, popularization of solar energy and further developments in the US Shale gas sector raise questions on the future of fuel economy. Analysts are divided on the possibility of crude oil losing its significance and becoming cheaper in the long run. If it happens, there is a possibility of synthetic rubber becoming cheaper at least in the long run, he said.
Another major issue is the new specifications and standards which are increasingly being introduced in the sourcing of raw materials by the downstream rubber manufacturing sector. These developments underscore the need for natural rubber production and processing sectors to reorient their priorities. They must equip themselves to cater to the emerging new specifications of the end-use manufacturing industry, he said.
Since nearly 90% of the world production of natural rubber comes from small and marginal landholders for whom rubber cultivation is merely a subsistence activity, it is a real challenge to equip the smallholders to adapt to the emerging changes, he added.

Supply-demand balance

In his opening address, Niwat Sute mechaikul, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand, noted that natural rubber industry continues to be influenced by various markets and fluctuated global economic factors affecting its market and global natural rubber price.
Thailand is also facing the same problem of low rubber price which directly affects rubber growers, tappers and all rubber business.
Thai Government has initiated several policy initiatives to decrease rubber planting area and quantity of production as well as to increase internal consumption of rubber so as to arrest fall in rubber prices and to balance natural rubber supply and demand, he said.
Thai Government recognizes the importance of cooperation between ANRPC member-countries in academic issues, researches and activities which will lead to solving the rubber price problem, achieving price stabilization and developing sustainable rubber industry, he added.
Boonharn Ou-udomying, Chairman, Rubber-based Industry Club,
The Federation of Thai Industries, delivered the key-note address.

Enlightening presentations

Those who presented papers at the conference included Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Bich, Secretary-General, ANRPC, Dr R Mukhopadhyay, Chairman, Indian Rubber Institute (IRI), Dr Suarni Sumormo, Deputy Director-General (Policy & Operations), Malaysian Rubber Board, and Ashish Govil, Senior Vice President, Global Head-Rubber Division, Olam International Limited.
Datuk Dr. Abdul Aziz, Secretary-General, International Rubber Research and Development Board (IRRDB), was the moderator at a panel discussion on Breaking the barriers and striving for a sustainable future: Are smallholders equipped to embrace the emerging mega trends?
“The ANRPC Annual Rubber Conference provided the right international forum for the policy-makers in the natural rubber producing countries and the private sector to interact with each other and deliberate on issues of common interest. It helped the policy-makers to closely understand the emerging developments in the downstream manufacturing sector and reorient the policies to match with the changing needs of the market,” said the ANRPC Chairman Tran Ngoc Thuan.