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"Will Sri Lanka's Rubber Industry Bounce Back?"
Will Sri Lanka's Rubber Industry Bounce Back?
Sean Wilson
Will Sri Lanka's rubber industry bounce back?

An improvement in prices has been responsible for an increase in rubber production last year and the first seven months of this year. This has resuscitated new hopes of a revival of rubber production and the development of a viable and productive rubber industry. Whether this is possible in view of a secular decline in rubber production for over three decades, is an interesting question.

Increase in production ; In 2002 rubber production recorded a modest increase of 5 million kilograms after years of declining production. Last year's increase in rubber production of 5.2 per cent is a comparison with the previous year's production that was the lowest ever. This increasing trend of last year has continued into the first seven months of this year, when rubber production increased by 2.3 per cent to 53.8 metric tons. It is likely that rubber production this year could be around 95 million metric tons. This would be about a 10 per cent increase from that of 2000.

Prices; The recent increase in production has been owing to an improvement in rubber prices from April last year. Several factors account for the improvement in prices. The price of synthetic rubber has increased perhaps due to a rise in petroleum prices. The major rubber producing countries of Asia have come to an agreement to curtail rubber production by 4 per cent, while the demand for natural rubber from China has increased. These factors are likely to exert an upward pressure on prices, a welcome change from the crash in rubber prices with the Asian economic crisis in 1997.

Last year rubber prices increased by about 25 per cent in rupee terms. Latex crepe prices doubled between December 2001 and December 2002. Since 1997 rubber prices declined to levels that were lower...

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