Sri Lanka to host Global Rubber Conference in October
By Malik Gunatilleke
Sri Lanka is on its way to making the rubber industry a $ 3 billion sector, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen stated following the announcement that the 4th Global Rubber Conference (GRC) and Exhibition will be held in Colombo from 27 to 30 October.
The GRC, formerly held as the Asean Rubber Conference until 2010, has been held in Cambodia (2011), Vietnam (2012) and Indonesia (2013) so far, while Sri Lanka will be hosting it for the first time with over 700 trade visitors and 28 countries set to participate.
The event, co-organised by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Confexhub, will be themed ‘Sowing the Seeds of Sustainable Future’. The Ministry of Plantation Industries and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce have extended their support for the event as well.
“We are now aiming at an ambitious $3B rubber industry in the coming decade. To arrive at this $3B in a viable manner, it is essential for us to support the rubber industry including growers. I believe it is time for a long term development plan for this sector,” said Minister Bathiudeen, speaking at the launch of GRC in Colombo on Thursday.
“There are several important socio-economic reasons to strengthen this industry. It is time for a long-term development plan for the rubber sector,” he stated.
In that context he said that hosting the GRC will be a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to take the sector to the next level, providing local stakeholders a chance to network with their international counterparts.
In 2013, Sri Lanka earned $ 72 million in rubber exports as well as $ 887 in rubber finished products. The total earnings of $ 960 million was a 100% increase in earnings from 2009, the Minister added.
Sri Lanka is currently the sixth largest exporter and the eighth largest natural rubber producing country in the world while the Government has set in place a 10-year plan to develop the sector.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce also announced the implementation of two projects including the first ever rubber industry database as well as a national rubber research consensus at a cost of more than $ 46,000.
Commenting on the current situation regarding the rubber sector in Sri Lanka, Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman and Chief Executive Bandula Egodage explained that the rubber industry was separated into the plantation services, pertaining to raw rubber production, and the rubber product manufacturing services.
He stated that the EDB has initiated several projects to improve the industry while it encouraged value addition as opposed to raw exports.
“We do not intend to curtail raw rubber production in Sri Lanka, but as part of our export vision, we are looking to add value to our exports. That is our mandate and direction,” he said.
Egodage highlighted the importance of networking, awareness, investment and global recognition which is where hosting the GRC in Sri Lanka would benefit local stakeholders.
The GRC will bring together stakeholders from the US, Europe, East Asia, North Asia and ASEAN countries to discuss issues concerning the global NR situation, strategies and challenges for sustainability, enhancing quality and several other issues.
The International Rubber Research and Development Board Secretary General Dr. Abdul Aziz urged all rubber players, policy makers, industry experts, producers and manufacturers to make use of this opportunity to discuss strategies aimed at expanding the rubber industry for global sustainable growth.
He explained that current global rubber prices are not conducive but predicted that they would recover. The GRC will help participants discuss the challenges that lie ahead as well as new material and strategies to improve value addition.
According to Dr. Aziz, over 50,000 products are made from rubber and around 70% of rubber production goes into the tyre industry.
He shared his optimism regarding the future of the global sector, revealing current initiatives that focus on working with different species of rubber trees.
“We are currently only working with one species (Hevea brasiliensis) but there are nine recorded species of trees. Projects are under way to head into the Amazon jungle in Peru to collect these other species,” he said.
Confexhub CEO and Director of the Organising Committee of the GRC, Paul Yeo briefed the gathering on the itinerary for the four-day event, underlining its key speakers and segments.
“The conference will feature speakers from 12 countries, 20 paper presentations by the cream of the rubber industry covering topics under six special-focused areas and a forum discussing venturing into new planting areas in non-NR producing countries,” he said.
The conference will also include a pre-conference study tour of the Sri Lanka Rubber Research Institute as well as a post-conference half-day tour to the only rubber auction in the world, which is administered and managed by the Colombo Rubber Trader Association.
Source : ft.lk