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The original report was published in the USA Today on Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bouncing back

Strong prices, and international interest in eco-friendly produce, have helped Malaysia's rubber industry increase its exports by 30% last year
Datuk Dr. Salmiah Ahmad, Director General of the MRB
Established on 1 January 1998, the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) is a government body which oversees all aspects of rubber production and exporting in Malaysia. While it once comprised of a trinity of agencies – the Rubber Research Institute Malaysia (RRIM), the Malaysian Rubber Research and Development Board (MRRDB) and the Malaysian Rubber Exchange and Licensing Board (MRELB) – the separate bodies have now been merged into one.

After a three decade slump, the Malaysian rubber industry is on the up once again, with rubber exports increasing by 30% to RM32 billion last year. Datuk Dr. Salmiah Ahmad, the Director General of the MRB recently stated that “We’ve seen more enquiries and a renewed interest in rubber,” and estimated that around 5,000 hectares of oil palm estates and small holdings were converted to rubber plantations in 2010.

 “R&D (Research and Development) is our main focus, and when we talk about it, we look at all the sectors that are within the rubber industry... our strategy is to produce high value-added products, and to supply a high value raw material that can be used to produce high value materials. We anticipate people wanting green materials in the future. So we will supply the green raw material to all these countries.”

Today, the Malaysian rubber industry produces a broad range of products from natural rubber including latex products, tyres and tubes, industrial and general rubber products, and footwear as well as rubber wood products. The country  remains the world’s leading producer and exporter of natural rubber medical gloves, catheters and latex thread.

Vincent Rifici, Idil Demirel, Scott Winnen, Ugo Bagration, Maggie Kay and Vanessa Massimini, with special thanks to Minister of Defence Dr. Hamid Zahidi, Mr. Serhat Ozalp and Mr. Shamsul Rizal

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Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam
total: 329,847 sq km
country comparison to the world: 67
land: 328,657 sq km
water: 1,190 sq km
AREA - comparative:   
slightly larger than New Mexico
tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons
tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite
GEOGRAPHY - note:   
strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea
Muslim (or Islam - official) 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)
Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan
28,728,607 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43 
constitutional monarchy
name: Kuala Lumpur
31 August 1957 (from the UK)
AGRICULTURE - products:   
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, coconuts, rice; rubber, timber; Sarawak - rubber, timber; pepper
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging, timber processing; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging
$210.3 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
$163.2 billion (2009 est.)
$156.6 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
$117.4 billion (2009 est.)

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