Cambodia exported 104,261 tonnes of rubber in the first half of the year, an increase of 24 percent compared to the same period in 2018, official figures show.
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From January to June this year, rubber exports were valued at approximately $139 million, with a tonne of rubber selling, on average, for $1,339, the rubber department, a bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, said in its latest report.
Cambodia exports most of its rubber as it lacks factories to process the material. Vietnam is the biggest buyer of Cambodian rubber. Cambodia also exports to Malaysia.
Men Sopheak, secretary general of the Association for Rubber Development, said harvesting at local plantations has begun, leading to an increase in production. This, in turn, led to an increase in exports.
However, Mr Sopheak said output and exports could be bigger if the industry was not facing some critical challenges.
“Yields and exports could be significantly bigger if we didn’t suffer from a shortage of labour in plantations. Labourers are choosing better-paid jobs, leaving some plantations without workers to collect rubber,” Mr Sopheak said.
He added that exports are underreported because farmers sell their production in the grey market to avoid paying tax.
Due to the shortage of workers and declining prices in the international market, farmers and investors are refusing to expand plantations. The number of hectares used for rubber plantations has remained roughly the same for the last three years, and it will not change in the next few years, Mr Sopheak noted.
The department of rubber’s report shows that there are 436,357 hectares of rubber plantations in the Kingdom.
“If prices remain low or even decrease, and if the labour situation doesn’t change, new investments on rubber are unlikely,” Mr Sopheak added.
Lim Heng, vice president of An Mady Group, a company that owns a rubber plantation in the Kingdom, said he was disappointed with the low price the commodity is fetching in the international market.
“Production continues to increase, but the current price of rubber is very disappointing,” Mr Heng said.
Last year, Cambodia exported 210,000 tonnes of rubber, earning about $300 million.