Monday, October 16, 2006

Scenes - Sarikei Rubber Revival

Sarikei Rubber Trees - 2004

ubber trees originated from Brazil. It was then brought to Britain in 1876 and then to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). 22 seedlings were brought from Ceylon to Singapore in 1877 and the tapping technique was developed by Henry Ridley without killing the tree. The first rubber export from Sarawak was in 1910.

Rubber tree latex collection in a receptacle (source:

The rubber tree is ready for tapping at around age 7. You can tap a rubber tree by cutting its bark thinly on the trunk to severe the latex ducts at a 25-30 degrees angle from the horizontal. If the bark is cut too deeply, the rubber tree will stop growing. The latex drips into a coconut shell or other receptacle where it hardens. Check out how latex is processed by Sarikei blogger Pejalai into rubber sheets here.

Rubber sheets on the back of a lorry - 2006 (source: borneo breezes)

A Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) factory, costing RM17.8M, will be set up in Sarawak under a joint venture with Chinese partner, Guangdong Agribusiness Group and Titi Latex. A few sites, including Sarikei, Betong and Sri Aman had been identified for the factory, which can produce 20,000 metric tonnes of rubber annually. The central management of mini-rubber estates will boost productivity from the 2,800 smallholder families and secure a higher price for their latex

Sarikei rubber sheets at Block 3, Repok Road - 2005 (source: Petre)

Natural rubber is making a comeback in Sarawak in recent years after a decline in the 80-90's due to synthetic rubber and other agricultural products like oil palm and cocoa. Unlike synthetic rubber, natural rubber is a renewable resource and has unique qualities.

About 50,000 products are made directly or indirectly from rubber like tyres, surgical gloves and condoms. Hmm, rubber plays a part in world population control. From a plain familar tree to a family tree plan ...


Daniel Yiek said...

This blog can not bring you the smells of rubber sheets but I'm sure you can remember the strong rubbery smells as you pass by the shops!

nung said...

Instead of using petroleum's by products some industries probably switch back to use natural rubber due to petroleum cost and environmental issues. Great report !

fred said...

they smell like money to me :)

Daniel Yiek said...

This was a difficult post to write because there was so much data and the html codes gave me errors with formatting. This post took 2 hrs+. Nearly peng sang (faint)! ;-)

If you rub it the right way (no pun intended), the genie in the rubber will turn in cold hard cash.

Borneo Breezes said...

Daniel - This is a great post about rubber. I am still however not clear about what is fueling the increased interest in rubber, tho' I applaud it. With so much petrol and its byproducts around I think it is the specific properties of rubber for specific things that make it more useful. Your blog is a good way for me to keep in touch with Malaysia, such a wonderful country. Especially because it has people like you doing this ongoing reporting. So amazing how much there is to know about where we live.

Daniel Yiek said...

Borneo Breezes,
Thanks for the kind words. My plan was to see whether this blog can go beyond 1 year. Sarikei is a small town - let's see how much content the readers and I can come up with.

Kanga said...

I used to grow, tap (though not often) and proces rubber. At the end of the process (see elsewhere in this blog)the sheets are semi -dried under the sun and then hung the rubber sheets up 2 metres the above the cooking area (we used firewood for cooking in the farm) and smoke the rubber over a period. It was taken down when they looked translecent (I mean some light can pass through the rubber sheets)and packed to send to town. It was hard work all in all. I do hope the rubber farmers can currently earn a better living than I used to.

Daniel Yiek said...

Four agencies to develop 7,300ha annually in rubber sector

KUCHING: The Sarawak rubber industry will get a big boost from new planting programmes, with four agencies targeting to develop a combined 7,300ha a year under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

The Malaysian Rubber Board and Sarawak Agriculture Department have each planned to plant 2,500ha a year, the Rubber Industry Smallholders Develop-ment Authority (Risda) 1,500ha and the Rural and Regional Development Ministry 800ha a year. Risda will embark on its pilot project covering 391ha and involving villagers from nine long-houses in Saratok, Betong division, next year.

Sarawak, which now has 157,000ha of rubber estates (out of Malaysia’s 1.23 million hectares), is seen as a vital new rubber growing zone due to its vast agricultural land area.

The state Agriculture Depart-ment has identified 1 million hectares suitable for rubber planting. The potential areas are in Sri Aman, Sibu, Sarikei, Bintulu and Miri divisions.

Ismail Ibrahim
Malaysian Rubber Board regional director Ismail Ibrahim said the board planned to establish 5,000ha of new rubber estates statewide, mainly on native customary right (NCR) land, in 2011 and 2012. The two-year project will require government funding of RM30mil.

“The board has identified 23 areas statewide for new planting involving some 900 smallholders.

“It will carry out land clearing and planting activities for scheme participants,” he told StarBiz.

Ismail said after the planting, the board would provide an advisory role to smallholders in the maintenance of their estates.

He said it would cost about RM10,000 to establish a 1ha rubber estate in Sarawak, with 65% of the costs to pay for land clearing, planting materials and related works in the first year.

High quality timber latex clones, such as the RRIM 2000 series, which have a potential yield of 1,800 kg per hectare per year, are to be used for the new planting. The young rubber trees will mature within five years, and have a productive lifespan of 25 years.

“To be economically viable, smallholders need to each own at least 2.5ha rubber estates. One hectare can contribute RM800 per month in income (based on current prices) for them,” said Ismail.

In Sarawak, he said, the prices of unsmoked rubber sheet were between RM5 and RM6 per kg against a production cost of RM3.

The average prices of tyre-grade SMR 20 have risen by more than 30% over the past four years – climbing from RM7.10 per kg in 2006 to RM8.30 per kg in 2008 and to more than RM9 per kg now.

The Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) expects natural rubber prices to remain high in the short and medium term due to the strong global demand. The International Rubber Watch Group has forecast stable rubber prices till 2035 due to declining stocks in major consuming countries.

Malaysia produced more than 857,000 tonnes of natural rubber last year, with the industry registering RM25bil foreign earnings in the export of rubber and rubber products. Malaysia is the world’s third largest producer of natural rubber. Sarawak exported 32 million tonnes of SMR 20 worth RM260mil in 2008.

Ismail said there were now four rubber-processing factories in Sarawak, which had doubled their capacity to 40 tonnes a day. The factories collect unsmoked rubber sheet and process them into SMR 20 for export.

Daniel Yiek said...

On the board’s achievement under the 9th Malaysia Plan, Ismail said it developed 715ha of new rubber holdings and established 14 model holdings to provide training and technology transfer to the smallholders.

He said the board had distributed automatic rubber sheet processing machines, each costing RM16,000, to 11 areas for use of the smallholders to produce quality rubber sheet.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, he said, the board would embark on good agriculture practices programme for existing smallholders, covering 325ha.

Ismail said the board’s strategy for the next decade (2010-2020) was to be a global centre of excellence for rubber, focusing on seven key areas.

These areas include enhancing national productivity in the upstream sector, developing advanced and cost-effective processing technologies and high value-added products, developing technologies for innovative and value-added products and industrial support, and to be a self-funded research organisation.

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