Vietnam’s rubber exports are estimated to reach 1.8-2 billion USD in 2010 as export prices continue rising to over 4,000 USD per tonne, said Vice President Tran Ngoc Thuan of the Vietnam Rubber Association (VRA).

At a seminar on the future of the natural rubber processing industry, that opened in HCM City on Nov. 3, Thuan, who is also head of the Vietnam Rubber Industry Group (VRG), said Vietnam now ranks fifth in the world in terms of rubber cultivation acreage and fourth in terms of natural rubber export volume.

Vietnam’s rubber has been exported to 39 countries, with China making up 60 percent of the country’s export volume, he added.

Secretary General of the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) Dr S. Evans highlighted fierce competition between natural and synthetised rubber industries, as natural supply has failed to meet demand.

There are big advantages as well as challenges to Vietnam and other natural rubber producers, he stressed.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said that Vietnam’s natural rubber output increased from 220,000 tonnes in 1996 to 550,000 tonnes in 2007.

The nation exported almost 732,00 tonnes of rubber in 2009 and is expected to ship abroad 750,000 tonnes this year, said the ministry.

Rubber is considered a plant of the national afforestation, hunger eradication and poverty reduction programme and its acreage is being expanded in northwestern and central coastal regions.

The country’s rubber sector is striving to raise rubber acreage to 800,000 ha by 2015 and its output to 1.2 million tonnes in 2020.

The nation’s rubber acreage is shrinking in traditional areas, said the VRG leader, adding that the group has had to plant rubber in border areas and cooperate with Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and a number of African nations in rubber cultivation.

However, he said, families and localities are encouraged to raise other plants with higher economic value.

The group has committed to planting rubber trees together with preventing soil erosion and fighting floods, he said.

The two-day conference, the first of its kind in Vietnam being held by the VRA and Malaysia, is a forum for domestic and foreign businesses to exchange information and experiences and seek investment cooperation opportunities.

An exhibition of Vietnam-made tyres and rubber products is being held together with the conference./.