Vietnam’s rubber industry is predicted to encounter prolonged difficulties in the time ahead and as such, it must focus on restructuring to increase the added value of products and reduce raw material export, said General Secretary of the Vietnam Rubber Association Vo Hoang An.

In 2014, the Southeast Asian country maintained the third and fourth position in the world in terms of natural rubber output and export value, respectively.

An continued to say with around 977,700 hectares of rubber trees, Vietnam produced 953,700 tonnes of rubber last year, a 0.7 percent rise from the previous year and accounting for 8.1 percent of the global output following Thailand (34.1 percent) and Indonesia (26.9 percent).

The country exported more than 1 million tonnes of natural rubber, valued at 1.78 billion USD, down 0.7 percent in volume and 28.4 percent in value from 2013 due primarily to plunging prices.

Rubber product exports exceeded 1.5 billion USD in 2014 with 551 million USD coming from tyre shipments. The respective figures soared by over 30 percent and 51.8 percent from a year earlier, he noted.

Vietnam imported about 372,000 tonnes of natural and synthetic rubber worth 639 million USD in 2014. The country must import all of its synthetic rubber since it is currently unable to manufacture synthetic rubber from crude oil.

The General Secretary underlined an array of difficulties posed for the sector last year as natural rubber prices hit a five-year low, attributable to slow global economic recovery and weak demand. Besides, a nosedive in oil prices from mid-2014 helped increase synthetic rubber’s competitive edge over natural rubber.

Fierce competition from other countries has also presented a major challenge, since the quality of Vietnamese natural rubber is often considered inferior and up to 80 percent of exported rubber is unprocessed, he added.

An cited predictions from international organisations that rubber prices will remain low in the coming years due to substantially-sized unsold inventory.

To cope with the predicted scenario, he asked producers to reduce the frequency of latex extraction to cut down expenses and raise productivity, ultimately improving worker income. He also encouraged the replacement of ineffective varieties with high-yield alternatives and intercropping of rubber trees and others.

He suggested they increase efforts to survey market demand to reform their products appropriately.

Additionally, the industry has to step up its restructuring by intensifying processing activities and designing a comprehensive development strategy linking rubber growers and businesses.

An also noted that more support policies from state agencies and localities are necessary to help the sector overcome hardships.-VNA