Special Correspondent

‘Much depends on stimulus packages to automobile sector'

KOCHI: Natural rubber is likely to be dearer for some more time, but its long term fortunes are dependant on the pace of global economic recovery, Stephen Evans, Secretary General of International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) has said.

In an interaction with mediapersons here recently, Mr. Evans, who took over as IRSG chief in January, said that boom in automobile sector across the globe especially in countries like China and India augur well for natural rubber. But, much depended on the government stimulus packages which were boosting the auto sector across the globe.

So the current auto boom could not be taken for granted and there could be overriding economic factors that decide the prospects of the industry and consequently the fortunes of rubber.

Climate change

Mr. Evans said that climate change had emerged as a serious concern with production falling in most of the major rubber producing countries of late. “As per a recent study, in Malaysia alone, climate vagaries have caused the yield to come down by at least three to four per cent and enhanced the gestation period of new rubber plants from seven years to seven and half years.”

Alternatives unviable

He said that so far there was no clear indication that production of natural rubber has come down drastically due to the adverse impact of climate change. The task force constituted under the initiative of IRSG for evaluating the specific impact of climate change on rubber production was expected to submit its report soon.

On the prospects of alternatives to natural rubber, he said that experiments with desert shrubs like Russian Dandelion and Guayule, which too yield natural latex, was yet to be proved viable. “I think it is a long term proposition,” he added.