Sri Lanka to upgrade rubber infrastructure, eyes 2022 US$ 4bn export target


As global rubber prices are set to soar, Sri Lanka is moving to upgrade its rubber sector to capitalise on the trend-and also to play the US$ 4 billion rubber exports target set for 2022, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said yesterday.

"I am pleased to announce that we are launching the first ever national rubber industry survey next month. We are also now looking at creating high end rubber testing lab facilities that the industry needs. All of this will contribute to Rubber Masterplan which looks to generate US$ 4 billion rubber exports by 2022," announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 23 August.

Bathiudeen announced this in the aftermath of special meeting held with the representatives of Sri Lanka Association of Rubber Product Manufacturers and Exporters (SLARPME) on the same day at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Colombo 3. The rubber industry delegation was led by Justin Seneviratne, Vice Chairman of SLARPME. Seneviratne is also a Director of Lalan Rubber Private ltd.

"This will be the first trade focused national rubber survey in the country and I thank you, the SLARPME for collaboration. Once the survey is completed we will create a database. The findings will then be fed to the comprehensive Rubber Labour force development survey that follows," Bathiudeen said.

"Apart from the Rubber Masterplan, my Ministry itself had already identified rubber as one of the thrust areas for development. Therefore the survey findings also will be used in Asian Development Bank’s CCED model," he said.

The City Cluster Economic Development model (CCED) of the Asian Development Bank has selected Sri Lanka’s rubber industry as a pilot and its Phase III is expected to end in December this year. In addition to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, ADB also partners with Ministry of Plantation Industries and the private sector on the CCED initiative.

The representatives praised Bathiudeen and his ministry for initiating the first ever comprehensive national Rubber Survey in collaboration with SLARPME. "This survey and the Rubber Labour force development survey that follows next are the essential next step for our rubber industry which is the third largest export earner. We most welcome this initiative and praise the Ministry for preparing a comprehensive evaluation," SLARPME Vice Chairman Seneviratne said.

The first survey to start next month which will survey the industry’s production, factories, employee numbers, and labour issues will be completed at a minimal cost of US$ 22,700 (Rs. 3 million).

Rubber reps also informed Bathiudeen of their need for accredited export rubber quality testing lab facilities. "The existing lab helps us to test for low and minor issues in export rubber but we need a test facility to certify in EN Standards for the EU market and anti-allergenic testing," Seneviratne said. "This will greatly upgrade the rubber industry to advance towards the Rubber Masterplan which looks to generate US$ 4 billion rubber exports by 2022" Seneviratne added. "This can also be achieved by upgrading existing test facilities," he added.

Bathiudeen extended his Ministry’s fullest support towards high end accreditation testing lab facilities as requested by the rubber industry and during the meeting itself instructed his top officials to identify and start necessary activities.

He also informed of his plans to support the industry by making arrangements to provide training and development that has become a dire need for the sector. "We will look into the possibility and feasibility to provide these facilities for the rubber sector through Sri Lanka Institute of Textile and Apparel (SLITA) under my Ministry. I believe the training infrastructure of SLITA can also be made available to rubber industry which we are happy to do," Bathiudeen responded.

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