KUCHING: The Opposition in Sarawak has warned that the rubber price, at average RM2 per kilo, is too low and the smallholders are suffering. The rubber price, it has estimated, should be at least RM4 per kilo.
“To get a kilo of rubber, a smallholder has to tap at least ten trees over 30 metres,” said DAP Youth Petra Jaya Publicity Secretary Abdul Aziz Isa. “Life is really difficult for the smallholders in a capitalist market where others control it to their detriment.”
“Also, productivity is too low.”
Citing some figures to show how the depressed market has affected smallholders, he recalled that a kati (600 gms) of rubber fetched 25 sen in 1974 at a time when sugar also cost 25 sen per kati.
“Now the price of sugar is RM2.85 per kg (or RM1.71 sen per kati) while latex scrap fetches RM1.60 per kg (Sarawak), RM2.05 per kg (Sabah) and RM2.20 per kg (peninsula),” said Aziz. “The cost of living in Sabah and Sarawak, at the same time, is higher than that in the peninsula.”
He wants to know why the rubber market for smallholders is being managed so badly by the Sarawak and Federal Governments when the scarcity of natural rubber is affecting downstream industries that depend on latex.
“When oil prices fall, the market switches to synthetic rubber which is a by-product of oil. Already, synthetic rubber dominates 60 per cent of the rubber market,” he said.
“The Malaysian Government is very weak in managing the buffer stocks. This is also one of the reasons why smallholders are suffering.”
He reckons that strong demand from China, the world’s largest consumer of rubber, has helped support rubber prices so far. “The market is also subject to demand and supply factors and buffer stocks in the rest of the world.”