Forest commodities exports down in 2022

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Cambodia netted $531.864 million from the export of rubber latex and wood in 2022, down 12.85 per cent over 2021, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery’s General Directorate of Rubber (GDR).

Cambodia’s international sales of rubber latex came to 372,900 tonnes worth $527.775 million, which was up 6,600 tonnes year-on-year, while those of rubber wood totalled 26,489 cubic metres valued at $4.089 million, the GDR reported.

Speaking to The Post on January 15, GDR head Him Aun pointed out that the overall export value had slipped by over an eighth on-year despite the slight increases in terms of volumes, which he put down to a drop in prices on the international market.

Given the gloomy global economic outlooks for 2023, and in particular for the Ukraine conflict, rubber latex and wood prices may remain similar to 2022 levels, he speculated, commenting that almost all rubber produced in Cambodia is exported.

The GDR noted that the average selling price of Cambodian rubber latex in 2022 was $1,415 per tonne, down by $225 or 14 per cent versus 2021, while the corresponding rate for rubber wood in December was roughly $150 per cubic metre.

The going-rate for rubber from smallholder farmers in December was in the range of 4,325-4,925 riel ($1.08-1.23) per kilogramme for 100 per cent dry rubber content (DRC 100%)

latex, and 1,975-2,500 riel for lump latex (DRC 50%), it added.

However, the owner of a 10ha rubber plantation in Kratie province’s Snuol district, who declined to be named, on January 14 told The Post that traders in his area are buying up lump latex at an average of 1,600 riel per kilogramme, which he conceded was up from 1,300 riel “a few months ago”, but still down from 2,200-2,300 riel a year ago.

Prices have been on a steady downtrend “for the past three or four years”, he lamented, underscoring that local producers have no other recourse but to sell off the commodity for export to Vietnam.

“I’ve heard people say that there are tyre factories in Cambodia but, as can be clearly seen, all the latex is exported to Vietnam,” he claimed.

In a previous interview with The Post, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng commented that rubber cultivation has made “no significant progress” in recent years, and has been hampered by a range of price and other market issues.

On the other hand, a series of recently-launched car tyre factories and vehicle assembly

plants will improve rubber cultivation in the Kingdom and drive the market higher, he posited.

“Given that rubber producers historically relied solely on international markets, these price issues have made things quite tough for investors. But once local factories start quoting rates, cultivation and prices will undoubtedly improve,” Heng claimed.

The GDR reports that as of 2021, Cambodia had 404,044ha dedicated to rubber production, with 310,193ha or 76.77 per cent mature and tapped for latex, which yielded 368,000 tonnes that year, or an average of just below 1,200kg per hectare. According to Aun, the area under rubber cultivation has not seen significant changes in the past “two or three years”.

Cambodian rubber latex and wood exports topped $611.77 million in 2021, climbing up from $482 million a year earlier. Broken down by category, 366,300 tonnes of natural rubber latex – or over 99 per cent of total production that year – accounted for $610.26 million, and 454 cubic metres of rubber wood clocked in at $1.52 million, the directorate reported.