Global demand for natural rubber was likely to grow in the next decade, driven by economic recovery and growth, reaching 12.4 million tonnes by 2015 and 14.2 million tonnes by 2020, an expert said yesterday.
Stephen Evans, general secretary of the International Rubber Study Group, told the first international exhibition and conference on "The future of The Natural Rubber Manufacturing Industry" that opened in Ho Chi Minh City that demand was likely to be higher in developing countries, especially China.
Global natural rubber (NR) production was projected to reach 13.6 million tonnes in 2020, he said.
"However, the current high market prices for NR may stimulate a further surge in new planting area as last seen in the 2005-08 period, which is not fully reflected in current supply forecasts," he added.
Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam would continue to be the main exporters of NR in the next decades, and demand from China would remain the main focus because of its growing automobile industry, said Suarni Sumormo, director of the Economic and Market Division of the Malaysian Rubber Board.
The official said: "World economic growth, crude oil prices and exchange rate are among factors that influence the demand of NR.
"Tight supply, appreciation of currency in major NR producing countries against the US dollar, continued growth of automobile industry and anticipation of high oil prices indicate a continued promising future of the NR industry."
Rajiv Budraja, director general of the Indian Automotive Tyre Manufacturers' Association, agreed: "Though China and India rank first and second in NR consumption, China's consumption is more than the sum total of all other ANRPC (Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries) members combined. China is expected to retain the first position in NR consumption during the next decade and beyond."
NR production in Vietnam increased rapidly in the past years from 220,000 tonnes in 1996 to 550,000 tonnes in 2007, said Le Ngoc Trung, representative of the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Ho Chi Minh City.
The country's NR export turnover had also increased strongly in recent years, he said, noting that in the first half of the year, it reached US$656.17 million, an increase of 83.3 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The government had acknowledged the importance of rubber with master plan to develop the industry until 2015 with a vision to 2020, he said.
Under the plan, the country targets to have 800,000ha under rubber cultivation by 2015, producing more than 1.2 million tonnes of natural rubber per year by 2020 from the current figure of 750,000 tonnes.
The industry also plans to invest in natural rubber cultivation in other countries.
Currently Vietnam is the world's fourth largest exporter of natural rubber, exporting 731,400 tonnes in 2009, earning $1.2 billion.
China is currently the largest buyer of Vietnamese rubber, accounting for 67 per cent of the country's total rubber exports.
Vietnammainly exported NR as raw material, with basic processing, Trung said.