November 13, 2019 / 2:21 PM / 3 months ago

Thailand seeks to export more natural rubber after curbs end

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand is pushing to export natural rubber to boost farmers’ income, the country’s commerce minister said on Wednesday, weeks after it ended a four-month curb on the commodity.

FILE PHOTO: Phon Tongmak, a rubber tree farmer, adjusts a cup at his flooded rubber plantation at Cha-uat district in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, southern Thailand, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom/File Photo

Thailand has negotiated to sell 260,480 tonnes of rubber to two private buyers in China and Hong Kong, Jurin Laksanawisit said.

“These deals should be worth no less than 13 billion baht ($428 million),” the minister told a conference of reporters and rubber farmers.

The amount comprised 160,480 tonnes of standard Thai rubber grade 20 (STR20) and 100,000 tonnes of ribbed smoked sheet no. 3 (RSS3), he added.

The minister also said Thailand had recently sold 100,000 tonnes of rubber worth 7.5 billion baht to India, and that he would travel to Turkey and Germany to negotiate more deals.

“Market expansion is very important,” Jurin said.

Thailand cut exports of natural rubber for four months from late May to late September, as part of a scheme by the world’s top exporters to prop up global prices.

The International Tripartite Rubber Council (ITRC), which groups Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, agreed in March to implement curbs on around 240,000 tonnes of rubber exports.

The three countries, which account for around 70% of the world’s natural rubber production, ended up cutting exports by 441,648 tonnes, the ITRC said last week.

In the first half of 2019, rubber exports from the three countries dropped by 10.6% from a year earlier, the ITRC said, partly due to lower supply.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia face lower output of natural rubber as they battle an outbreak of the fungal disease pestalotiopsis, which causes leaves to turn yellow and spotted, amid a peak rubber-tapping period between October and December.

The disease threatens to cut output in affected areas by around half, and has been reported in more than 450,000 hectares of rubber plantations across the three countries.

($1 = 30.3500 baht)

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Dale Hudson

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