Bukidnon rubber industry needs to improve quality

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/14 January) The rubber industry is an emerging industry in Bukidnon but small rubber farmers need to improve quality of production to be able to command a good price, an official from Department of Trade and Industry-Bukidnon said.

Junar Merla, senior trade and industry development specialist at DTI-Bukidnon said local producers need to improve their practices to increase quality of latex, the natural rubber extract, which is a rubber product produced locally and highly in demand in the Philippines and other countries.

Bukidnon rubber producers, Merla added, are looking at the big market in China as they increase production. But he said in one of DTI’s assessments, they found that poor quality is one issue confronting the industry.

He cited that there is a need to train and improve the core competencies of rubber tappers and handlers to ensure good quality of latex.

Merla said traders expressed dismay that they found rubber cup lumps sold to them by local suppliers mixed with “foreign objects.” He cited that traders complained of some stocks mixed with soil or even battery solution to increase weight.

He said small local producers do not know that the scheme is doing a boomerang as traders become hesitant in buying locally produced rubber or are willing to buy at a cheaper price.

Buying stations in Bukidnon and North Cotabato are willing to pay for P36 to 48 per kilo of good quality cup lumps but some buy only at P26 to P30 due to the problem, he added.

One more problem in the local rubber industry, he added, is the lack of an industry consolidator – one that can process rubber cup lumps to rubber crepe, which is the form in demand by tire producers like Yokohama in Pampanga province.

He said at the moment a mix of locally-based and mobile traders buy cup lumps. But Merla said small rubber farmers can command a bigger price if they have the option to sell the stocks or have it processed for a fee and be the one to sell it as rubber crepe.

He cited that this is secondary concern compared to that of quality. He added that the Central Mindanao University, which runs a processing facility, can be the consolidator.

He said CMU and Mountain View College have the biggest rubber plantations in the province, which as of 2013 a total of 6,000 hectares planted to rubber.

Merla said DTI’s intervention to address the problem of quality is to organize the small rubber farmers and help them get the core competencies. He added that DTI organized a Rubber Production (Budding and Tapping) Seminar in 2013 where about 50 farmers were trained.

On January 26, the DTI is also holding a follow up training with safety measures as new input in preparation for a competency assessment with the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

The training, in cooperation with Central Mindanao University, will be held free of charge at the university’s Farmers’ Training Center. (Walter I. Balane/BukidnonNews.Net)