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Introduction:Malaysia is the leading producer of natural

rubber in the world. About 46% of the total world’s rubber is produced in
Malaysia. The rubber plantation was started in Malaysia in 1877. First, the seedlings were
brought from the Amazon Basin, and were planted here on a experimental basis. Later, when
the rubber seedlings were successfully planted, attempts were made to produce it on a
commercial scale. The British people, who colonised the region and introduced rubber tree,
provided the capital for clearing the forest and planting rubber trees. They also provided the
market for rubber. The skilled labour that was needed was managed from India, particularly
from South India.

Conditions favourable for Rubber


Growing:The natural home of wild rubber tree (The Havea Brasiliensls) is in
the Amazon Selvas. Hence the hot-wet climate of Malaysia is most suitable for its growth.
The rubber trees need:
 A mean temperature of 27°C, never falling below 22°C.
 Heavy rainfall above 200 cm., with no drought.
 Deep rich soils with good drainage preferably scrumbly, well-oxidized and acidic in
reaction
 Adequate supply of labour is an important factor for the collection and plantation of
rubber over large holdings.
But now these have been split into small family-based holdings to reduce the capital
investment, cost and problems of employing a large labour forces. Half of total production
now comes from small-sized plantations.

Area of Production:Rubber can grow anywhere in Malaysia,


because of the suitability of climate and soil; but most of the rubber estates are concentrated
in the western coastal plains of Malaysia. The plantation in coastal zone gets the advantage of
nearest port for it’s export. Yet very low areas are avoided in order not to suffer from
stagnation of water. The greatest production is in its Jahore State of Southern Malaysia. Here
Rubber cultivation occupies about 4-2 million acres or about 65% of the total cultivated area
in the country.
Planting of Rubber Trees
The work of a rubber plantation is done very scientifically. Every tree of a rubber estate is
carefully looked after. For this, some special type of labourers are employed. Rubber is
planted from the seedlings, and becomes ready for tapping in 6 or 7 years. For making the
rubber plants high-yielding, its seedlings are grafted. This is done in a very interesting way.
When the seedlings are about 5 or 6 cm. in diameter, buds from the selected high-yielding
trees are grafted on to the seedlings. This is done to transmit the high-yielding quality of the
"mother-tree". The graft is, then, kept bound and left for a few weeks. After a few weeks the
grafted buds sprout. Then, the old tree is cut off just above the point of union. The grafted
seedlings are, then, planted in row 5 or 6 metres apart from each other. In order to conserve
the soil and its fertility, some crop covers (leguminous creepers etc.) are planted in between
the seedling trees. During the period of its growth, planters take all the measures against pest
and diseases. Manure and fertilizer are regularly added.

Rubber Tapping
Tapping is done by wounding the bark of the rubber trees. It is done by making a cut at
between one and a half metres from the ground at an angle of about 30° to the horizontal.
The cut is about 2 mm. deep. It is made in such a way as to sever the latex tube but not to
damage cambian – a paper like skin between the bark and the wood. When the liquid latex
flows out, it is collected in vessels. Tapping of the trees is usually done on alternate days.
Tapping starts before six in the morning, and the collection of latex is completely before
noon. Tapping work is done generally by hand. It is very laborious job and requires
considerable skill. There are several tapping system practised in Malaysia, but the most
popular is a "Sloping Cut" made half way round the circumference of the tree.

Rubber Processing
COAGULATION
The latex obtained from the tree is treated chemically at the plantation factory. After the
collection of latex, it is sieved to remove the foreign matter. After this, it is put into tanks and
coagulated or thickened by the addition of acetic or formic acid. Each tank may have several
aluminum partitions that allow the coagulated rubber to be removed in thick slabs. The slabs
are, then washed with acid and passed through rollers which press them into the rubber.

RUBBER TYPES AND GRADES


 Pale Crepe. After coagulation, the wet slabs are passed through a creping machine,
and the crepe varies from off-white to pale yellow colour. The crepe sheets are largely
used in making the crepe soles of shoes.
 Ribbed Smoked Sheets. Slab rubber can also be passed through a series of rollers;
one of the last set prints a simple pattern, such as crisscross. The sheet is, then, hung on
rocks, in smoking shed, for 48 hours or more to dry. The smoke is obtained by burning
wood or oil. The ribbed smoked sheets are of a dark amber colour. In trade, they are
popularly known as "Ribbed Smoked Rubber". A huge quantity of ribbed smoked sheets
is exported to all parts of the world.
 Hevea Crumb. It is made of adding some chemicals in the latex. It is produced in the
form of a mass of crumb-like pieces instead of sheets. This new brand is popularly known
as the Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) or Hevea-crumb rubber. In this form, the
rubber can be conveniently compressed and packed for export.
 Skim Rubber. In the process of coagulation, some ten percent rubber is left behind in
the liquid of coagulation tank. That residual rubber is recovered by skimming; it is
known as Skim Rubber. Skim rubber contains a much higher proportion of impurities,
and so it is less desirable.
 Vulcanized Rubber. It is to be noted that the rubber is graded according to
International Standard published by the Rubber Manufacturers Association of New York.
The starting of rubber plantations in Malaysia has resulted in the rapid economic
development of the area. Roads, railway lines and ports have been developed, and new areas,
with all modern amenities, have been settled by the people. The population has increased,
and the people now maintain a high standard of living.

Problems of the Rubber Industry


At present, the policies of the Malaysian Government are not as favourable to foreign
investors as previously. The Government regulations, regarding benefits and wages to native
workers, are more strict, and the taxes are higher. The rubber planters also face the problem
of surplus production (it is because the huge areas are available for the rubber plantation),
which results in lowered prices and profits. The abundant production of synthetic rubber in
the U.S.A. and other countries has also given a great set back to marketing. The synthetic
rubber, which is made from petroleum, coal, alcohol or other materials, is obtained at a very
low cost of production. Another problem is the need to replace a large proportion of the trees,
which are very old, with new ones of very high yield. The Government has laid a special tax
on exported rubber, and the money, thus, raised is utilized for the cost of replanting trees.
Because of all these hazards, the rubber planters are now converting the rubber estates to
that of palm. But it does not mean that the rubber plantation system will discontinue. The
synthetic rubber is excellent for certain purposes, but it is not yet as satisfactory as natural
rubber for general purposes, such as tyres. As such, with an expanded role of the Government
in the management of the rubber plantation, the production of rubber in Malaysia will
undoubtedly continue, and, perhaps even increase in importance.

Rubber Export
Malaysia produces about 1-5 million tons of natural rubber annually. A major part of it is
sent to Singapore or Penang, from where it is exported all over the world.[6] The chief rubber-
importing countries are:
(i) Singapore (for re-export),
(ii) Russia and European countries,
(iii) the U.S.A.,
(iv) Japan and
(v) India.