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 Firestone Natural Rubber to quit producing latex in Liberia

HARBEL, Liberia—Firestone Natural Rubber Co., a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corp., will cease producing liquid latex at its Liberian plantation in the fourth quarter of 2014 and concentrate solely on the production of block rubber, the company said.

“This change will allow the company to utilize its entire output for the manufacture of tires and other rubber products,” Firestone Natural Rubber said in a statement issued Aug. 14.

With the discontinuation of latex production, Firestone Natural Rubber also will close its latex terminals in Baltimore, Md., and Savannah, Ga., by the end of the fourth quarter, it said. The company also said it is working with its current latex customers to assure a smooth transition as they seeks alternate sources of supply.

Approximately 200 workers, mostly in Liberia, will be affected by the end of latex production at the Firestone plantation, the company said. Because of employee attrition and reassignment, actual layoffs will be minimal, it said.

Firestone officials could not be reached for further comment.
(Credit: Miles Moores, www-rubbernews-com)

 Where rubber trees are grown in Africa (FAO 1974)

Rubber trees are grown in regions that are hot and moist, that is:

+    in Africa (250 000 tons of natural rubber);

+    in Central and South America (31 700 tons of natural rubber)

+    in Asia, which is the chief producer (3 207 100 tons of natural rubber).

In Africa they are grown mainly in the forest regions.

In Africa the chief producers of natural rubber are:
Liberia          100 000 tons
Nigeria          80 000 tons
Zaire              35 675 tons
Ivory Coast     18 000 tons
Cameroon      12 000 tons
Central African Empire         1 250 tons
Ghana           1 700 tons
Mali           1 100 tons
Congo           160 tons

These production figures (for 1974) are from the FAO Production Yearbook 1974.

To grow good rubber trees and harvest plenty of latex, you must:

+    prepare the seedlings well;

+    make a good plantation;

+    look after the plantation;

+    harvest the latex well.

 DR Congo to produce renewable energy from rubber tree

Kinshasa, DR Congo - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is to produce renewable energy from rubber in the Lukula territory, south-west of the country, the director of the project, Daniel Adam, told the press on Saturday. Mr. Adam was speaking at the end of an audience with the mayor of the town of Boma, Marie-José Nsuami.

Rubber trees are abundant in the district of Bas-Fleuve and in Lukula.

Pana 10/04/2011

 Water Control Solution for Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

Over years, The OC Group has supplied natural latex rubber to the world-leader in water control solution, Sovereign Hydro.   The products offered by Sovereign Hydro are widely used in mining applications and civil applications to control water seepage in deep, shallow and open cut mines as well as in water sealing application for underground garage, basements, cellars etc... up to 200 litres/second at 145 psi.  We have high confidence that Sovereign Hydro solution can be useful to help solve the radio-active water leaking problem at Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan. For more information, please contact The OC Group or visit www.sovereignhydro.com.

 Conti to raise tire prices across Europe

HANOVER, Germany (Oct 12, 2010) - Continental AG will raise the list prices of summer tires in the European replacement market by an average of 5 percent, effective Jan. 1.

The company said the increase comes in response to the very high price level for natural rubber.

We are currently working on implementing this price increase right across Europe in order to offset at least some of the substantial increases experienced this year in the cost of raw materials,” a spokesman for Continental said.  "We opted for January 2011 as a date so that our customers can now focus their attention on the winter tire business which is so important for us all."

 Rubber Prices in Indonesia Advance to Record on Rainfall, Association Says

Rubber in Indonesia, the world s second-largest producer, surged to a record after heavy rains disrupted tapping and the price may extend gains, according to an industry association.

The free-on-board price, or cost without freight and insurance, for SIR-20 grade climbed today to $3.85 a kilogram, Asril Sutan Amir, chairman of the Rubber Association of Indonesia, said by phone. The price was quoted at $3.67 yesterday, and was about $2.87 at the start of the year, according to data compiled by International Rubber Consortium.

A La Nina weather event has brought heavier-than-usual rainfall to parts of Australia and Asia this year, including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, the three biggest rubber growers. The rains have also been blamed by Indonesian industry groups for lower output or missed forecasts for cocoa and tin.

The Indonesian rubber price may advance to $4 by the end of this month because there s a “supply shortage” and growing demand, said Amir. Output will probably be about 2.4 million metric tons this year, matching last year s total, Amir said, reiterating a forecast that the association made last month.

Rubber futures in Tokyo denominated in yen have surged 19 percent this year on tighter supplies and demand from China, the largest user. The March-delivery contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange climbed as much as 3 percent today to 332.5 yen per kilogram ($4,046 a metric ton), the highest level since April 19.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia together account for about 70 percent of global natural-rubber production.

To contact the reporter on this story: Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok at ssuwannakij@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Richard Dobson at rdobson4@bloomberg.net

 Rainfall Hurts Rubber, Indonesian Group Says

BLOOMBERG - Natural rubber output in Indonesia, the world’s second- largest grower, may miss an industry group’s target for this year as heavy rains disrupt tapping, adding to signs that wet weather is hurting commodity production.

Rubber Reaches Two-Week Low as Shanghai Slumps on Probe Talk

Rubber in Tokyo dropped to a two- week low as investors locked in profits and after the price in Shanghai slumped on speculation that regulators may be investigating large futures positions.

Commodity prices in China declined today on market speculation that regulators were investigating large positions in natural rubber futures, the Securities Times said on its website, citing people it didn’t identify.

 Indian Tyre Companies Are Announcing Price Hike

Indian Tyre companies are announcing price hikes of its rubber, to cope up the rising prices of raw materials.

Apollo Tyres, MRF, JK Tyres and Ceat have already increased the prices by 15-20% since January 2010 and they are now considering for another price hike. JK tyres has already been thinking over a 4% price hike across all its product categories. Other tyre companies are also planning on price revision.

According to AS Mehta, Marketing Director at JK Tyres, said that the company had faced one of the worst quarters (July-September) in the past several years on the back of unprecedented rise in input prices.

He added that, even several rounds of price hikes have not been sufficient to offset the increase of price of natural rubber and other inputs. Currently, natural rubber prices are around 160 per kg and if this price is constant, there will be no further tyre price hike atleast for this year.

Either ways, we could still expect a very small price hike in the coming days, to be announced by various tyre companies.

Via WWW.ONEINDIA.IN

 Rubber Drops as Yen Surges to 15-Year High, Shares Slump on Growth Concern

BLOOMBERG - Rubber fell after Japan’s currency jumped to a 15-year high against the dollar, cutting the appeal of yen-based contracts, and as equities and commodities dropped amid concern that the global economic recovery may be faltering.

Futures in Tokyo lost as much as 1.2 percent to 296.3 yen per kilogram, retreating further from a four-month high of 302.5 yen per kilogram ($3,614 a metric ton) reached on Sept. 6. February-delivery rubber settled at 298.7 yen.

The yen advanced before the U.S. Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book business survey that may show the U.S. recovery is stalling. Risk aversion by investors also increased after German factory orders unexpectedly decreased in July, and Germany’s banking association said the nation’s lenders need to raise $135 billion because of new regulation, according to Hisaaki Tasaka, an analyst at Tokyo-based broker ACE Koeki Co.

“Industrial raw materials are vulnerable for selling amid concerns about the economic recovery,” Tasaka said by phone today. “Rubber tracked losses in oil and metals.”

The yen rose to 83.35 per dollar, the strongest since May 1995. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index sank 1.4 percent to 120.11.

‘Lingering Worries’

“There are lingering worries the U.S. economic recovery may be tepid,” said Tsutomu Soma, a bond and currency dealer at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. “This is a negative for the dollar,” said Soma.

German factory orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, fell 2.2 percent from June, when they surged a revised 3.6 percent, the Economy Ministry in Berlin said yesterday. It’s the biggest drop since February 2009.

The Fed will release its survey of conditions in its 12 districts today before officials meet to review monetary policy on Sept. 21. The jobless rate in the U.S. is likely to approach 10 percent in coming months as the economy fails to grow enough to employ people rejoining the labor force, economists said.

Losses in rubber futures were limited as rain curbed supply from Thailand, the world’s largest producer and exporter.

The Thai cash price was unchanged at 109.20 baht ($3.50) per kilogram, according to the Rubber Research Institute of Thailand. Rubber availability remains thin as rains in southern Thailand, the country’s main plantation area, have disrupted tapping, it said.

January-delivery rubber on the Shanghai Futures Exchange gained 0.2 percent to close at 26,450 yuan ($3,892) a ton. It climbed to 26,645 yuan on Sept. 6, the highest level since July 2008, as accelerating growth in China’s car sales raised the outlook for demand.

Natural-rubber inventories monitored by the Shanghai exchange expanded 1,119 tons to 25,820 tons, the bourse said on Sept. 3.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aya Takada in Tokyo at atakada2@bloomberg.net

 Rubber Imports by China May Climb by 10% on Carmaker Demand, Citic Says

BLOOMBERG - China, the world’s largest natural rubber user, may boost imports 10 percent this year after “robust demand” from tire makers depleted inventories to the lowest level in more than seven years, an analyst said.

Imports may climb to about 1.87 million metric tons from 1.7 million in 2009, likely supporting prices as shipments from major producers slow, Liu Bin, an analyst at Citic Securities Futures Co., said by phone from Shenzhen today. Inbound shipments by China declined 1 percent to 980,000 tons in the first seven months of this year, according to customs data compiled by Bloomberg.

Stockpiles tracked by the Shanghai Futures Exchange declined to 14,771 metric tons on June 24, the lowest since Feb. 2003 and were at 24,701 tons last week. Combined inventory monitored by the exchange, at ports and in industrial warehouses may have dropped to the lowest level in three years, compared with the same time in previous years, Liu said.

“Robust demand from tire makers this year caught many industry players off-guard,” Liu said. “Many had expected to see auto sales and tire consumption growth to slow, especially after the U.S. decided to levy Chinese tire imports.”

Natural rubber prices climbed to 26,200 yuan ($3,850) a ton today on the Shanghai exchange, the highest level since July 2008. Prices are likely to be supported as shipments from producing countries in Southeast Asia slow because of disruptions to output caused by storms and wet weather, Liu said.

China’s tire exports jumped 30 percent in the first six months from a year earlier to 86.68 million units as demand from developing countries outweighed lost sales in the U.S., Liu said. The U.S. in September levied a 35 percent duty on $1.8 billion of China-made tires.

“Coupled with a still-strong domestic auto market, you have a very bullish demand picture,” Liu said. China’s retail passenger-car sales in August jumped 59 percent from a year earlier to 977,330 units, the China Automotive Technology & Research Center said yesterday.

The nation’s total vehicle sales in August increased 56 percent compared with the previous year to 1.22 million units, according to the center.

--Feiwen Rong. Editors: Matthew Oakley, Ravil Shirodkar.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Feiwen Rong in Beijing at +86-10-6649-7563 or frong2@bloomberg.net

 Asia Rubber Falls On Euro-Debt Fears, Wall Street

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Asia rubber extended losses Friday, reacting to Wall Street's plunge overnight, when a harrowing five-minute selloff caused a nearly 1,000-point drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, aggravating the rubber market's fears about the ripple effects of euro-zone debt crises.

Tokyo Commodity ribbed smoked sheet 3-grade rubber futures posted losses for a fifth consecutive trading day after hitting the first limit-down of Y20 at the opening. The benchmark contract fell as much as 7.2% to Y259.5 a kilogram--a level not seen since mid-December 2009--as investors exited riskier assets including commodities. The benchmark Tocom October rubber contract settled 6.1% or Y17 lower at Y262.6/kg.

"The market is in a panic today; the serious problems in Europe could continue putting downward pressure on Tocom rubber for some time," a Tokyo-based broker said.

The Tokyo-based broker tipped immediate support for Tocom rubber futures at Y260/kg, but said commercial buying was expected to support the market at Y250/kg.

Fears of contagion from the Euro-zone debt of some of the weaker economies in the union have been looming in rubber markets, so the DJIA's overnight dip spooked investors.

"The plunge in the DJIA caused other commodities to fall, and this spilled over into rubber futures," a Thailand-based trader said.

The DJIA finished 3.2% lower, after plunging 9.2% or 998.5 points at one point in a harrowing five-minute selloff that may have been triggered by a breakdown of trading systems. The major U.S. stock exchanges have said they were looking for trading glitches.

Tocom rubber is oversold now, after being overbought in April, some traders said.

Commodity markets are over-reacting, said Avtar Sandu, manager for Asian commodities with Singapore-based Phillip Futures. "If you take the Euro debt out of the equation, nothing else has changed," he said.

Still, there may be more downside for Tocom rubber, said trade participants, as concerns over the Euro-zone debt continue to weigh on sentiment and the outlook for rubber industrial product demand if the problems spread beyond the region. Trade participants are particularly concerned over whether internal opposition to Greece's austerity measures could hamper rescue efforts.

Fears about the global economic recovery also sent crude oil prices plunging, with the benchmark New York Mercantile Exchange contract settling down sharply overnight in a three-day selloff. Prices were hovering above $77 a barrel towards the end of the Asian day, close to Thursday's settlement. Crude oil is a key component of synthetic rubber, a natural rubber competitor.

Tocom rubber futures were continuing to come off the lows in the night session, with the benchmark October contract trading Y3.5 at Y266.1/kg at 0828 GMT, but traders said that any rebound may not be sustainable unless there are fresh developments that ease concerns about Euro-debt problem countries.

Rubber futures on other Asian bourses have also taken a beating in the wake of the tumble on the bellwether Tocom.

Benchmark natural rubber futures on the Shanghai Futures Exchange shed 2.5% to settle at Y22,235/ton, after falling by as much as 3.6%. Shanghai rubber's fall was also due in part to continuing concerns over China's policy tightening measures.

RSS3 futures on the Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand hit the limit-down of THB4.7/kg at the opening. The benchmark AFET December RSS3 contract was last trading down THB2.5 at THB89.3/kg at 0825 GMT.

Rubber futures on the Singapore Commodity Exchange have also fallen, with the benchmark RSS3 June contract 10 U.S. cents lower at 330 cents/kg and the TSR20 June contract 12.2 cents lower at 271.5 cents/kg at 0800 GMT.

The losses in rubber futures recently have also been due in part to market expectations that supplies will increase as major exporter Thailand comes out of the low-output wintering season. Benchmark Tocom rubber futures have fallen more than 20% since hitting a 21-month high of Y338.5/kg on April 16.

However, despite an easing in Thai physical rubber supplies, they are still tight, as latex output has been less than expected, traders in Thailand said.

The continuing tightness hasn't stopped buyers from putting in ever lower bids though, particularly with rubber futures falling so sharply.

At the Thai central markets, prices of unsmoked sheet grade-3 dropped to THB100.1-THB101.41/kg Friday from an all-time high of THB118.5/kg two weeks earlier on April 21.

-By Hui Leng Tan, Dow Jones Newswires, +65 6415 4083; huileng.tan@dowjones.com

 Rubber Nears Five-Month Low as Drop in Crude Oil Cuts Appeal

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Rubber tumbled to near a five-month low, extending losses for a fourth week, as a decline in crude oil and losses in equity markets reduced investor demand for the commodity used in tires.

Futures in Tokyo lost as much as 3.3 percent, wiping out the week's gains, after oil dropped for a fourth day and Asian stocks decreased after Portugal announced austerity measures, spurring concern fiscal tightening across Europe will limit economic growth.

"The risk appetite of investors is low as concerns about Europe's debt problems persist," Shuji Sugata, research manager at Mitsubishi Corp. Futures Ltd. in Tokyo, said today by phone. "The market will remain capped for a while."

Rubber for October delivery, the most-active contract, lost 2.7 percent to settle at 262.2 yen per kilogram on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange. The price fell as low as 255.8 yen on May 12, the lowest level since Dec. 16.

Crude oil for June delivery dropped 0.9 percent to $73.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, cutting the cost of making rival synthetic rubber. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 1 percent to 119.84, trimming the measure's biggest weekly gain in six weeks.

Rubber futures reached a 21-month high of 338.5 yen on April 16 on rising demand and as supply from Thailand, the world's largest exporter, entered a seasonal decline.

Prices have slumped 23 percent since then as growers in Thailand's main producing area resumed tapping, Sugata said. Rubber trees shed leaves and reduce latex output during February to April, a period known as wintering.

Still, cash prices increased as drought has lowered latex output and limited supply, the Rubber Institute of Thailand said on its website today. The price of Thai RSS-3 grade rubber for June-delivery, which excludes freight and insurance, gained 0.2 percent to 112.85 baht ($3.49) a kilogram yesterday, the institute said. It reached a record 130.55 baht on April 28.

September-delivery rubber on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 1.6 percent to settle at 21,985 yuan ($3,221) a ton.

--With assistance from Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok. Editor: Matthew Oakley.

 Rubber Rallies From Five-Month Low on European Bailout Package

May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Rubber rallied from the lowest price in almost five months on optimism an emergency package by European policy makers will contain a sovereign-debt crisis and maintain economic growth in the region.

Futures on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange rose as much as 2.9 percent, trimming a five-day, 18 percent slump after European policy makers agreed to an emergency lending mechanism worth almost $1 trillion. Rubber also gained as crude oil rose for the first time in five days, reducing the appeal of the rival synthetic product made from petroleum.

"Last week's panic sell-off in stocks and commodities appears to be easing at the moment with this loan package agreement," said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Tokyo-based IDO Securities Co.

Rubber for October delivery, the most-active contract, rose as much as 7.7 yen to 270.3 yen per kilogram ($2,906 a metric ton) before settling at 269.4 yen. The contract dropped to 259.5 yen on May 7, the lowest level since Dec. 16.

European finance ministers put together an unprecedented loan package that may be worth 720 billion euros ($928 billion) for debt-swamped governments in a bid to restore faith in the euro and prevent Greece's fiscal woes spreading.

The 16 euro governments pledged to make 440 billion euros available, with 60 billion euros more from the EU's budget, said Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado. The International Monetary Fund may provide a further 220 billion euros, she said.

Rally Limited

"Despite this loan package agreement, the rally in risky assets may be limited until investors fully regain confidence," Kikukawa said.

An increase in supplies from Thailand, the world's largest exporter, may also cap rubber's rebound later this week, Kikukawa said. Latex production slows in February to April as growers reduce tapping, during a low-output period known as wintering.

"The EU rescue package for Greece and crude oil's rally boosted gains on Tocom but rises may be limited on worries over increasing supply," Chaiwat Muenmee, an analyst at DS Futures Co., said by phone from Bangkok.

The free-on-board price of Thai RSS-3 grade rubber for June-delivery, which excludes freight and insurance, dropped 0.1 percent to 109.65 baht ($3.40) a kilogram, according to the Rubber Institute of Thailand. The price climbed to a record 130.55 baht on April 28.

The decline "was driven by expectations more supply will come onto the market this month," Chaiwat said.

September-delivery rubber on the Shanghai Futures Exchange gained 1.9 percent to 22,570 yuan ($3,285) a ton. On May 7, it dropped to 22,000 yuan a ton, the lowest level since Feb. 9.

Natural rubber inventories monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 2,968 tons to 35,850 tons, based on a survey of 10 warehouses in Shanghai, Shandong, Yunnan, Hainan and Tianjin, the bourse said May 7.

--Editors: Jarrett Banks, Matthew Oakley.

 China March Natural Rubber Imports

China’s NR imports in March declined by 0.3% from a year before to 193,829 metric tones, according to figures released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs. In contrast, import data showed an increase of 55% in February from 125,165 metric tonnes in the same month the previous year.

Overall, the total of China’s import of natural rubber during the first three months was 490,452 metric tonnes, an increase of 30% compared with the same period in the previous year. The main reason contributing to the huge increase in import was the lower domestic production caused by severe drought in the two major producing areas in the Hainan and Yunnan provinces.

It was estimated that this severe drought would reduce China’s natural production in 2010 by 20,000 tonnes. There was then the booming demand especially from the robust auto industry where car sales rose 56% in March compared to a year before. To lower the pressure of shortage in domestic supply, as well as the high prices, the Chinese government on 14 April released 30,000 tonnes of natural rubber from its reserves and will sell another 30,000 tonnes on 23 April. The Chinese government had last yea built up a reserve of natural rubber up to 105,000 bought from its domestic producers. – IRCo.

 Rubber prices up, but Vietnam has none to sell

Natural rubber latex prices have been increasing steadily since the beginning of 2010. Yet even though the potential for profits is expanding, Vietnamese businesses have no rubber to sell.
According to the General Statistics Office, in the first two months of 2010, Vietnamese enterprises sold 68,000 tons of rubber latex with revenue of $170 million, a decrease of 11.3 percent in quantity, but an increase of 64.5 percent in income, thanks to better prices.

Though the prices keep rising, Vietnamese enterprises still cannot export rubber in large quantity because the first quarter of the year is not harvest time. In general, rubber latex export volume at this time is just equal to 10-15 percent of the whole year, while the supply is from stock left from the previous year.

As such, when the world rubber price rises, Vietnamese companies have none to sell. The price of every ton of rubber latex has surged from $2,190 per ton to $3,000 per ton, increasing by $800 or 27 percent.

The rubber price has risen in accordance with increasingly high demand. Vietnam can provide only 700-800 tons of rubber every day, while China needs 1,000-1,300 tons.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the import-export activities of natural rubber at Mong Cai and Dong Hung border gates with China have expanded since the beginning of March.

Trinh Van Vinh, Chair and General Director of Tay Ninh Rubber Company, reported that they sold out a month ago. Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Hai, General Director of Dong Phu Rubber Company, also admitted that the company has no product left. Hai explained that now only trading companies have rubber to sell, while producers all sold out a long time ago.

According to Nguyen Minh Khang, Deputy Chief Secretariat of the Vietnam Rubber Group, the natural rubber price in the world is decided by supply and demand, the oil price and speculators. As for rubber, Khang responded, it is not difficult to store rubber and wait to sell when prices go up. However, it is very difficult to forecast when the prices will hit their peak.

“The oil price has remained steady at over $80 per barrel, pushing production costs of artificial rubber up, which explains why natural rubber has become more attractive,” Khang detailed.

“If oil prices suddenly drop now, the natural rubber price will not stay high,” Khang noted.

He recalled the oil price fever in July and August of 2008, when price went up to nearly $150 per barrel. At that time, natural rubber rates also increased to $3,300 per ton, the highest peak in the history of Vietnam’s rubber industry. Since November 2009, when the oil price lessened, the rubber price also dropped to $1,200 per ton, making rubber growers suffer.

According to Khang, for 2010, experts all predicted that the rubber price would stay high, while the price would increase by 30 percent in comparison with 2009. They pointed to the high demand for rubber to make car tires, especially from China.

Dinh Van Tien, Head of the Import-Export Division of the Vietnam Rubber Group, averred that the Chinese Government’s policy to encourage the use of small trucks will make China’s vehicle output increase sharply in 2010.

“In June 2009, just one month after the country applied the demand stimulus policy, the sales of vehicles of China immediately increased by 37 percent compared to early May,” Tien calculated. The rapidly growing automobile industry in China will help stimulate the demand for rubber, thus pushing the price up.

Tien added that, in 2010, the world’s oil price is not likely to decrease while the global economy is recovering. Therefore, natural rubber will remain the optimum choice for tire-makers and healthcare equipment production.

  Bridgestone buys Thai rubber at $3.28/kg for March

 Japan's largest tyre-maker, Bridgestone Corp, has bought some quantities of Thai RSS3 rubber at a price as high as $3.28 kg -- the grade's strongest in 58 years, dealers said on Tuesday.  The deals were struck late on Monday and Friday, when the tyre maker also purchased RSS3 at $3.26 a kg for March and April shipments. Cash prices have risen this year on tight supplies in Southeast Asia and recent gains in oil-driven Tokyo futures.

"Bridgestone has been in the market almost everyday lately but I don't think they are buying in big quantities. I guess it's only for a few hundred tonnes," said a dealer in Thailand's southern city of Hat Yai.

"I don't hear buying interest from China. They are still very quiet," said the dealer, referring to the world's largest consumer.

The dry wintering seasonis underway in Thailand and parts of Indonesia, curbing the flow of latex.

Other dealers said Indonesia's SIR20 was sold to unspecified major tyre makers at 144.50 and 144.75 U.S. cents per pound for April shipment. Malaysia's SMR20 was offered at $3.21 a a kg but there were no reports of deals.

 Malaysian NR production fell below 900kt in 2009

Malaysia's production of natural rubber (NR) decreased by almost 20 percent in 2008, despite a sharp jump in December. Exports also declined for the full year. The country produced 97 kt of NR in December 2009, an increase of 56 percent on the same month in 2008. This was not enough to offset reductions in previous months, and the country finished the year with NR production of 860 000 tonnes, a decrease of 19.5 percent on 2008 when the country produced 1.068 million tonnes.

S.M.R. 20 prices in December 2009 rose 13.7 percent, to 926.12 sen ($2.70) compared with the previous month, but were more than double the price in December 2008.

Exports in the month reached 70369 tonnes, an increase of 58.4 percent compared to the figure a year earlier, and up by 8.3 percent on the October figure.n For the full year, exports reached 714 000 tonnes, down by 24.4 percent on 2008, when the equivalent figure was 932 000 tonnes.

NR imports totalled 81,973 tonnes, up by 130.8% on the same month a year earlier, and up by 28.3 percent when compared to the previous month. For the full year NR imports amounted to 738 739 tonnes.

At the end of December 2009, total stocks of NR held was 161 725 tonnes, down by just 3.4 percent (5332 tonnes).below the level a year earlier.

 Asia Rubber-China Chases Prices Up; Tyre Grades Sold above $3

Chinese firms bought tyre rubber grades for more than $3 a kg ahead of the Lunar New Year and other companies stepped up purchases before the dry winter season curbs supplies, dealers said on Thursday.

Dryer weather has started in parts of Thailand, the world's largest producer, while leaves have turned yellow in Indonesia's main growing island of Sumatra, indicating that rubber trees will produce less latex soon, they said. Thai RSS3, Indonesian SIR20 and Malaysia's SMR20 grades changed hands at between $3 and $3.06 a kg for nearby shipment in active trade late on Wednesday, although prices had gone up as much as 2 percent in the past week.

"We've got a March cargo that traded at 137 U.S. cents/lb ($3.01/kg) with sizeable buyers from China. I think they are short for nearby supplies and need to buy," said a dealer in Singapore, who buys rubber from Indonesian and sells it to China. "In Europe and the U.S., prices increased to 137.5 cents," he added. Sumatran-based dealers said SIR20 was also traded at 136.50 U.S. cents per pound, 137.25 and 137.75 free on board Palembang, Belawan and Surabaya. "Buyers are very active and Hankook is also the market," said a dealer in Sumatra, referring to Hankook Tire Co Ltd, the world's No.7 tyre maker. "It looks like inventories are depleting in China. They are turning to Indonesia for supply, maybe because our price is more attractive than Thai or Malaysian grades," he added. Deliverable rubber inventories in Shanghai fell to 141,951 tonnes in the week ending Jan. 28 from 151,832 tonnes the week before, and stocks on warrant fell 20,200 tonnes from a week earlier to 103,905 tonnes, the Shanghai Futures Exchange said.

Dealers said China's purchases would pick up before factories close for the Lunar New Year holidays in the middle of February. China imported 1.71 million tonnes of natural rubber in 2009, up 1.74 percent from the previous year, customs data showed. In addition to purchases from China, dealers said Japan's largest tyre maker, Bridgestone Corp , bought Thai RSS3 at $3.06 a kg for nearby shipment, while STR20 was also sold at the same price to Singapore dealers. "China may be looking for the Indonesian grades because they have been quiet on our side," said a dealer in Thailand's southern city of Hat Yai. "But I think overall demand is still quite good for nearby shipment," he added. SMR20 changed hands at $3.03 a kg but there were no details on buyers. Steady demand helped the physical market defy pressure from the Tokyo futures, which slipped on Thursday due to higher yen and weaker oil prices.

 Vietnamís Rubber, Sugar, Property Stocks More Promising This Year 2010

Local securities firms expect commodity stocks in the rubber, sugar and real estate industries to be highly profitable for investors this year compared to stocks of other industries.

Most listed firms in Vietnam reported good results in 2009 thanks to the Government stimulus packages but they will meet more challenges this year as the stimulus is winding down. However, enterprises in the rubber, sugar and property sectors will enjoy more favorable conditions than others, said Ngo Thanh Phat, head of the analysis department of Vietnam International Securities Co. (VIS). "The rubber industry is expected to attain strong growth in 2010 as demand and rubber prices will rise by 8% and 30% year-on-year respectively?" Phat projected.

Vietnam expects to export 750,000 tons of rubber worth US$1.5 billion this year as demand on the global market will surge due to the economic recovery, according to the Vietnam Rubber Association. Nguyen Minh Tuan from SaigonBank Berjaya Securities Co. said the rubber industry met no difficulties such as forex risks and capital source scarcity. Enterprises in the industry will be able to maintain 2009’s high profits and enjoy more advantages this year, Tuan said. A report of Saigon Securities Inc. shows that Danang Rubber Co. obtained an after-tax profit of nearly VND390 billion last year, up by 7.5 times against 2008.

The enterprise also obtained the highest rate of earnings per share on the local stock market in 2009 at VND25,300. Sugar prices are expected to soar this year as well as the nation will face a sugar shortage of around 25% while demand on the global market will remain high. "Stock prices of sugar and sugarcane companies will increase in line with the sugar price surge,?" Phat said.

As to the real estate market, brokers say the sector will make a breakthrough in the middle of the year due to Vietnam’s and the world’s economic recovery. The local property market attracted a huge flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) last year that has given a strong boost to the sector, Phat said. Many property stocks on the domestic market have returned to reasonable rates after a long period of adjustment. “This is an opportunity for investors as property stocks have a strong potential for mid- and long-term investment? Phat added.

 Bangladesh: Rubber Farming on Amid a Volley of Questions

At least 20,000 acres of land is being used for rubber cultivation in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB) is cultivating rubber on some 15,000 acres of land under rubber cultivation project while cultivation is going on some 5000 acres of land under private initiative, sources said.

CHTDB has about 26 lakh rubber plants on 13,200 acres of land (200 plants on each acre) while some 5 lakh more plants are growing on about 5,000 acres of land under privet ownership. Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided Tk 52.5 crore in two instalments for the rubber cultivation project from 1979 to 1995 and Tk 13.5 crore came from public exchequer after signing of the CHT peace accord in 1997.

Some 3,300 stakeholders of the project alleged that they are not getting 60 percent of total income as per the agreement they signed with the CHTDB. They alleged the authority is depriving them of their due share producing false data of production and income. CHTDB officials said many farmers have become solvent through rubber cultivation while farmers and agriculturists term it non-profitable and hazardous to health.

About 50,000 people, who have been living in rubber garden areas or are engaged in rubber production, are suffering from different diseases, sources said. Binoy Bhusan Chakma, a farmer of Bhaibonchhara in Sadar upazila of Khagrachhari, said most of the farmers are sufferings from different diseases as they are not aware of the bad effects of rubber cultivation. Amiya Kanti Roaza, Assistant General Manager of the rubber cultivation project, told this correspondent that there is no bad effect of rubber cultivation. If it is harmful to human health, government would never initiate such a project, he added. Khagrachhari District Horticulture Officer Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said rubber garden workers suffer from various skin diseases. General Manager of Rubber Project Mohammad Ali Hydar said many farmers have been benefited through rubber cultivation on fallow land.

 Barriers to Rubber Exports May Be Dropped at Producers Meeting in BK, Thailand

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 70 percent of global natural rubber output, may abandon their policy of restricting exports now that rubber prices have rebounded, dealers said on Tuesday.

The International Tripartite Corporation, which includes senior agriculture officials from the three nations, is meeting in Bangkok to discuss the next step after their last gathering in April. The meeting ends today.

I think no tough action is needed as prices have rebounded,” one dealer in Malaysia said. On the other hand, they should ease the policy to encourage buyers and sellers to run their business comfortably.”

At $1.68 a kilogram, benchmark Thai RSS3 grade is priced more than 50 percent above the seven-year low of $1.10 a kg it struck in December on the back of purchases by China, the world’s largest consumer.

Rubber prices have taken a dramatic turn since hitting a 56-year high of about $3.25 a kg last July on record oil prices, which in theory makes the price of synthetic rubber relatively more expensive than natural rubber.

But the peak was short-lived as a slowing global economy slashed demand for cars around the world, and in late 2008 Chinese buyers defaulted on shipments following a sharp drop in physical prices.

In December, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to remove 915,000 tons of rubber from the market in 2009 to prop up prices.

They cut 270,000 tons in the first quarter and then proposed at their last meeting in April to cut a combined 48,000 tons per month from the second quarter.

Some dealers expected the nations to cut exports by less than they had targeted earlier, while others said the trio might even lift the export cuts completely in a bid to boost rubber trade and offset declines in output.

Global natural rubber output was revised down slightly to 8.92 million tons in 2009, the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries said, while exports fell sharply in the first few months of this year.

We are not expecting much to come out of it,” one dealer in Singapore said. The price has rebounded now. It’s in a better shape since the last meeting when there was an excess of supply over demand.”

Whatever the decision, dealers said prices were no longer a main issue, especially since China still showed strong interest in rubber and the US dollar was also declining.

Despite the rising stocks both in absolute terms and relative to consumption, natural rubber prices may increase during 2009-2011,” consultants at The Rubber Economist said. The change in the value of the US dollar can influence both consumers and producers. In general, a weaker US dollar results in higher commodity prices and vice versa.”

A trader in Thailand’s Hat Yai rubber center said of this week’s meeting: I don’t think there will be any news that will have an impact on the market. Prices have recovered to a level where they are not an issue any more.”

China has bucked the trend in the struggling global automobile industry, posting year-on-year sales growth of 47 percent in May as government stimulus measures helped fuel a recovery in demand.

Reuters

 Rubber stocks drop on falling rubber prices, demands (Thanhnien.com.vn)

Da Nang Rubber Joint-Stock Co., Vietnam’s third-biggest listed rubber company, on Monday dropped the most among local rubber stocks in Ho Chi Minh City as global natural rubber prices and demand fell.

Da Nang Rubber slid by the daily limit of 5 percent, the most since June 22, to close at a two-week low of VND85,500 on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange.

World rubber prices have been falling and global demand for latex is not very promising,” said Trinh Vinh Quyen, an analyst at Ho Chi Minh City-based DongA Securities Co.

Natural rubber futures dropped for the first time in three days on concern Japanese industrial production recovery may not be sustained as consumption weakened. Japan’s retail sales slid 2.8 percent in May from a year earlier, the Trade Ministry said Monday in Tokyo. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted a 2.6 percent drop.

Earlier this month, Da Nang Rubber said pretax profit through May was more than double its full-year target.

Earnings rose to VND122 billion (US$6.8 million), from VND33.7 billion in the same period last year, Nguyen Thi Minh Thu, Da Nang Rubber’s communication officer, said on June 19. The company’s full-year target is VND52 billion, she said.

Last year’s economic crisis was difficult for us because production costs were high, demand dropped and orders declined, so we wanted to be cautious this year by setting similar targets to 2008,” she said.

Tay Ninh Rubber Joint-Stock Co., the nation’s second-largest listed rubber product maker, dropped 4.1 percent Monday, to a one-week low of VND44,800.

In the first quarter of this year, Tay Ninh Rubber’s net income rose 8 percent year-on-year to VND28 billion ($1.6 million).

Dong Phu Rubber Joint-Stock Co., Vietnam’s biggest listed producer, Monday fell 2.4 percent, to VND44,800. Hoa Binh Rubber Joint-Stock Co. declined 0.8 percent, to VND36,300. Thong Nhat Rubber Joint-Stock Co. slid 0.7 percent to VND14,600.

The VN-Index, Vietnam’s main stock index, lost 0.95 points, or 0.21 percent, on Monday to close at 460.42. Declines outnumbered advances by 107 to 36.

 

 Asia Rubber-China sniffs around, Bridgestone buys SIR20

* Bridgestone buys SIR20 at $1.49/kg, RSS3 sold at $1.63

* Supply improves in Thailand, latex prices steady

* Michelin, Goodyear sidelined

By Lewa Pardomuan.

SINGAPORE, June 30 (Reuters) - China, the world's largest rubber consumer, was making inquiries for prompt shipment while tyre maker Bridgestone (5108.T: Quote, Profile, Research) purchased some quantity of Indonesia's SIR20 at a bargain, dealers said on Tuesday. Other major tyre makers, Goodyear (GT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Michelin (MICP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), were on the sidelines after active buying in recent weeks, but consumers may not be in a hurry to buy as natural rubber supplies begin to improve in top producer Thailand.

Thai's RSS3 was sold at $1.63 a kg to Singapore dealers, while Japan's largest tyre maker Bridgestone bought SIR20 at 67.50 U.S. cents per pound ($1.49 a kg) for August shipment late on Monday, 14 cents lower than the Thai grade.

"I guess Bridgestone people always place lower bids. They are also a big consumer, so they have the bargaining power," said a dealer at an international trading house in Singapore.

"Some Chinese buyers have placed bids at $1.6450 but we are reluctant to sell because it's just too low," he added.

China has bucked the trend in the struggling global car industry, posting year-on-year sales growth of 47 percent in May as government stimulus measures fuelled a recovery in demand.

July RSS3 added 1 cent to $1.68 a kg on Tuesday to track gains in Tokyo futures, where the most active December contract JRUc6 hit an intraday high of 162.9 yen a kg, its strongest since June 17, on rising oil prices.

Prices of SMR20 and SIR20 also edged higher. <RUB/AS>.

Some dealers said China's demand had slowed in the last two months after aggressive buying earlier this year, raising speculation it was turning to its own stocks to meet demand. Rubber inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 0.1 percent in the week ended June 25 to 41,393 tonnes from 41,453 tonnes the week before.

"I heard some buyers were bidding RSS3 at $1.63, and I think it's traded. I think it's sold to dealers in Singapore. I don't hear Chinese buying buying in the market," said a dealer in Thailand's southern city of Hat Yai.

"Michelin and Goodyear are rather quiet. I guess this is OK, although it rained over the weekend. Overall, people expect supplies should be better in July," he said.

Prices of Thai 60-percent latex in drums for July were unchanged from Monday's levels at $1,210 a tonne, although some dealers also quoted the raw material $10 lower at $1,200.

Supplies have been tight in tight in Thailand after heavy rains hit plantations just after the end of the February to April wintering season, during which trees shed leaves and latex output drops. (Additional reporting by Miho Yoshikawa in Tokyo) (Editing by Ben Tan)

 Natural rubber in bear hug (Business-Standard, India)

Onset of the monsoon triggered a moderate bear rally in the natural rubber (NR) mart as the price of the benchmark grade RSS 4 dropped to Rs 96.50-97 a kg. The market depreciated Rs 3-3.50 per kg in just seven days. It was quoting at Rs 100 on the 10th of the month. As the monsoon is active in Kerala, tapping and processing was severely affected in most of the rubber-growing areas, and the price is moving southward.
 
Normally, the monsoon causes a price rise in the market due to poor arrival of quality sheets.

According to local traders the market is under the tight grip of big players in the futures trading and because of this the market reacts abnormally. They added that there is the possibility for further decline in prices as a major chunk of farmers had stocked rubber for reaping the monsoon advantage. So there is a possibility for an increase in supply in the coming weeks and this may badly influence the price line in the main production season, that begins by September. There was a lot of talks among growers that price would touch Rs 130 by June - July.

The drop in production during April and May leveraged the price rise in May and peaked to a recent high of Rs 100. This was against the softening of prices in the international market. Production during these months had dropped by 13 per cent at 106,500 tonnes against 123,115 tonnes in the same months of 2008. But the loss in production was compensated through a sharp increase in import as import rose to 24,743 tonnes against 14,341 tonnes. So there was not a serious supply crunch in the NR market. But the Indian market was higher by Rs 17 per Kg on an average than the global market throughout April and May. The gap is almost same even after depreciation in local prices giving a scope for more imports in the current fiscal year. The global market also moved in the same line to quote Rs 80 a Kg in this week.

The global market has severely affected a squeeze in demand as major consuming countries have slashed their purchase to a great extend.

The consumption of NR by USA dropped by 50 per cent and that of EU dropped by 40 per cent.

Japan’s purchase reduced by 25-30 per cent and Chinese demand dropped by 5-10 per cent. World over NR market is facing a serious crisis as demand side is being weakened heavily due to the current economic turmoil. So local traders and growers feel the heat of a stronger bear mode in the coming weeks even in the midst of cool monsoon showers.

Export of tyres has dropped 26 per cent in April this year at 350,280 units against 471,313 units in April of 2008. All category of tyres except jeep performed badly on the export front according to latest ATMA estimates.

Most serious casualty was industrial tyres in which the drop was 96 per cent. Only 70 such tyres were shipped in April against 1709 in the same month of last year. A 91 per cent drop registered in tractor trailer segment at 164 124,623 truckôbus tyres were exported, registering a drop of 18 per cent against 152,783 units. In passenger car segment export was 50,049 units against 74,312 units, registering 33 per cent decline.

Meanwhile, total tyre production in April increased by 9 per cent at 72,60,404 units against 66,73,255 units in April last year. Truckus and jeep segment had a growth 6 per cent each while passenger car segment had grown by 7 per cent. 13 and 14 per cent growth registered in motor cycle and scooter segment respectively, as per the data of ATMA.

 Recession brings rubber prices down, but buyers stay on the sidelines

Natural rubber prices rebound but synthetic rubber prices continue to erode

By Gordon Graff -- Purchasing.com

The huge slump in the automotive and tire markets has cooled off demand for natural and synthetic rubber, causing prices for both to tumble dramatically since last year. While natural rubber prices have rebounded a bit since the start of the year, synthetic rubber prices have continued to erode.

But prices for both types of rubber should be on the upswing over the next few months, according to industry sources even though rubber buyers are not rushing to stock up at the current low prices, either because they lack the cash or they are uncertain about future demand.

After hitting an all-time high of $1.47/lb last June, average world natural rubber prices plunged to 57¢/lb last December, according to the International Monetary Fund. They gradually rose again to 74¢/lb in April. Meanwhile, synthetic rubber prices, which includes a variety of different materials, closely tracked butadiene, a key synthetic rubber monomer. Butadiene prices plummeted from $1.12/lb last November to 65¢/lb in December, reports Purchasingdata.com. That trend has continued, with butadiene tags sinking to 36¢/lb by April. One synthetic rubber, polybutadiene, has paralleled this movement, with prices sinking from $1.50/lb at the start of the year to $1.10/lb by early May.

Demand for rubber in the all-important automotive sector witnessed "an incredibly sharp decline" in the fourth quarter of 2008, says Whitney Luckett, vice president for sales and marketing at RCMA Americas, a Norfolk, Va. importer of natural rubber. "Essentially, people just stopped buying," she recalls. Since then, with their reserves dwindling, some rubber consumers have cautiously resumed their purchases, Luckett says, which has spurred slightly higher prices. But tiremakers as a whole continue to struggle, with such majors as Goodyear, Cooper and Bridgestone posting losses in recent months.

Demand for synthetic rubber also began to shrivel last year, but prices didn't reflect that until late in the fall. Part of the reason was that butadiene monomer was tight for much of 2008. But now, butadiene is "very, very long," says Bill Hyde, an olefins and elastomers analyst with Chemical Market Associates Inc. (CMAI). Much cheaper crude oil this year has also taken the steam out of butadiene prices, he adds.

As with natural rubber, demand for synthetic rubber "has been decimated by the slowdown in the auto industry," says Hyde. The impact stems not only from less car manufacturing but fewer purchases of replacement tires. "Drivers are stretching the life of their tires as long as they can before they go in to replace them," Hyde notes.

The up-side of such feeble demand is bargain pricing for rubber. But this is not prompting a wave of buying across the board. Tire companies in North America bought large amounts of rubber at last year's record high prices, notes Luckett. But with the collapse of demand, "they simply don't have enough cash" to begin stockpiling rubber in anticipation of better times ahead, even with today's attractive prices.

Uncertainties about the future are also curbing buying. A case in point is Callaway Golf Co., a Carlsbad, Calif.-based manufacturer of golf equipment, where purchasing manager Marc Winkfield is putting the brakes on rubber stockpiling. He says he had to pay premium prices last year for the polybutadiene rubber his firm uses in golf balls, but is now paying far less.

"Unfortunately, demand is very soft right now," Winkfield says. On the manufacturing side, he adds, "our practice has been to have lean inventories." So he is reluctant to stock up on rubber, even at today's low prices, or to engage in hedging strategies, because he can't accurately predict when demand will pick up. Rubber buyers in general seem to be holding back for the same reason, Winkfield notes.

At Hecht Rubber Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla. fabricator of a wide variety of rubber goods, Larry Hecht, the firm's president, says he tries to stock up on rubber when prices fall to low levels. But in contrast to most buyers' experiences over the past year, he says that "the prices we pay for rubber have hardly come down at all." What has dropped considerably, Hecht reports, is the fuel surcharge for freight that his rubber suppliers imposed last year.

With natural and synthetic rubber subject to wide price swings, one form is likely to be cheaper at any given time and place than the other. Such price differentials between the natural and synthetic materials have caused many buyers to substitute one for the other in their products as their relative prices change. While the typical ratio of synthetic to natural rubber in a passenger car tire is about 60:40, this can be changed for economic reasons. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, for instance, does this routinely, and says that as much as 20% of the natural rubber in its tires can be substituted for synthetic rubber, or vice versa, without impacting tire performance.

But when considering rubber substitutions, buyers should weigh not just price alone but "the total cost of using one raw material vs. the other," says Goodyear spokesman Keith Price. As a raw material for tire manufacturing, he notes, synthetic rubber requires less preliminary treatment than natural rubber because it is "an extremely clean material without foreign contamination." Buyers should also consider how replacement rubber grades will behave in selected applications, Price continues. Tires for aircraft and off-the-road vehicles require natural rubber to handle the heat they generate, he says, while tires for passenger cars and light trucks can use more synthetic rubber.

While the differential between natural and synthetic rubber may shift in the remainder of this year, both materials are likely to witness price hikes in that period. As Luckett sees it, natural rubber prices at the start of the year were "way too cheap" to be sustainable, even with slack demand. She anticipates that prices this year will gradually migrate upward toward a "stabilization point," where supply and demand are in balance. That point is in the 80¢/lb to 91¢/lb range, she estimates. One source of this upward price pressure, Luckett points out, may be stockpiling by China, which still has a fairly robust auto industry.

As for the synthetic market, "increasing prices for butadiene are probably just a matter of months away," says Hyde. One cause of this, he adds, is a "pent up demand" for replacement tires. (Butadiene is a monomer for the styrene-butadiene rubber used in auto tires.) Many drivers have waited far longer than normal to buy replacement tires, he explains, and will soon be forced to make such purchases. But with inventories of synthetic rubber and tires fairly low, this sudden surge in tire demand will "reverberate up the supply chain," making butadiene monomer tight and "substantially" more costly. As a result, synthetic rubber will reflect those higher monomer costs. Hyde says he's unsure exactly when this higher price scenario will unfold, but he estimates that it will occur before the end of this year.

 Tokyo rubber futures hit skids, pose Shanghai dilemma

Published: 17 Jun 2009 01:16:21 PST

* TOCOM rubber trade dives on falling demand, longer hours

* Shanghai volumes, open interest surge, despite obstacles

* Tokyo still sets physical tone, but for how long?

SINGAPORE/TOKYO, June 17 - The days of preeminence for Tokyo s rubber futures contracts appear increasingly numbered, as dwindling open interest and longer trading hours aid Shanghai s ascent as the main centre for price direction.

While liquidity on both exchanges suffered in the wake of the financial crisis that slashed demand for all raw materials, including rubber, turnover on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange <0#JRU:> has continued to decline this year, falling by half, while Shanghai activity has doubled from a year ago.

Open interest has slumped to its lowest in years as both retail investors and end-users pull out of Japan s domestic commodities markets, while Shanghai trade has soared as speculators banked on China s voracious appetite for rubber.

Japan has been here before.

"There is a risk of the death of a market," said a manager in charge of rubber at a Japanese commodity brokerage, who declined to be named to avoid potential problems with the exchange.

"A shift in Japan s main industry sector in the past resulted in extinction of some listed futures contracts like raw silk, wool yarn and rayon yarn. But I ve never heard of a system change causing a contract to disappear."

As rubber dealers gather at a conference in Vientiane this week to discuss issues ranging from price trends to tyre demand, they will also ponder TOCOM s declining role as a price-setter -- and the obstacles in adopting a China-based benchmark.

For graphics on rubber turnover and open interest, click: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/069/CN_RBR0609.jpg http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/069/CN_RBROI0609.jpg

"The role of Japan is not so dominant, even more so in this economic crisis, and people think the fundamentals are better represented in China now," said Djoko Said Damardjati, secretary-general of the ANRPC, whose members account for more than 93 percent of global natural rubber output.

"For the moment, China is taking the lead in buying rubber so interest shifts to the Shanghai rubber markets and this can be seen from how its auto industry is thriving despite the problems everywhere else."

CHINA GAINS

In many respects the shift is natural -- China overtook the United States as the world s biggest importer seven years ago, while demand by automaking giant Japan has stalled as more manufacturers move production overseas.

China now uses 16 percent of the world s natural rubber, while Japan uses about 9 percent.

China s auto sector has also been a bright spot for an otherwise gloomy industry as the economic meltdown forced many to scale back production, cut jobs and close factories. Passenger car sales in May soared 47 percent from a year earlier as stimulus measures lured consumers to showrooms. [ID:nSHA187104]

But TOCOM s woes are in part self-inflicted.

Last month, the 25-year-old exchange undertook a major systems overhaul, including the extension of rubber trading until 1000 GMT, a move that has made many users uneasy, spreading already thin liquidity over a longer timeframe.

Previously the market shut at 0830 GMT, which is 3.30 p.m. in Thailand, source of a third of the world s natural rubber and the main centre for physical trading.

Trading settles at 0630 GMT, and the night session between 0800 GMT and 1000 GMT is registered as part of the following day.

TOCOM has also introduced a circuit breaker system to eliminate the frustration of daily price limits, a long-overdue modernisation for many traders but an unwelcome change for many less sophisticated players who fear they may be exposed to unlimited losses, making them reluctant to trade in large lots.

"Shippers and producers have some doubts over TOCOM s stance, saying that it reflects the needs of fund managers, not their own," said the manager at the Japanese brokerage.

Concerned that its importance as an exchange is diminishing, TOCOM has appealed to overseas financial authorities, including those in Hong Kong and Singapore, to approve new trading rules to allow foreign investors to trade directly on the exchange, instead of placing orders at a member brokerage.

"Trading volume has fallen sharply since the new system was introduced," Kazunari Hayakawa, executive managing officer of Tokyo Commodity Exchange Inc, said at a news conference on Wednesday, attributing the decline to overseas traders who were unaccustomed to the new measures.

LITTLE CHOICE

Despite the poor reception of new measures, dealers are unlikely to abandon the Tokyo market for now. While major tyre makers such as Bridgestone Corp <5108.T> have traditionally avoided volatility in futures prices on TOCOM, producers and shippers still use the market for hedging and provide liquidity.

And the alternative has problems.

Although China s demand influences physical prices in main producers Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, Shanghai rubber futures lack accessibility to foreign participants, said dealers.

"If you have some business in China doing rubber, you may take it as a benchmark. Other than that it s quite difficult. You need to have an account in China," said Avtar Sandu, manager of Asian commodities at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Currency may also be a turn-off for physical dealers because the Shanghai market is denominated in yuan, which is not fully convertible. TOCOM, on the other hand, is traded in yen.

"I don t think the government is ready to open the Shanghai market to foreign participants," said a dealer in Thailand s southern city of Hat Yai. "But once China opens up its market, it will replace TOCOM." (With reporting by Niluksi Koswanage in KUALA LUMPUR, Alfred Cang in SHANGHAI and Nick Trevethan in SINGAPORE, Editing by Ben Tan and Jonathan Leff)

 Partners Put on Hold Deals with Thai Firms

By WALAILAK KEERATIPIPATPONG - Bangkok Post Nov 27, 2008

Concerning Instability, foreigners seek more favourable climate.

Unrest in the capital has worsened the economy and halted investment plans of many agricultural companies including Thailand-s leading rubber exporter, Thai Hua Rubber Co.

Its joint investment plan with Seagift, China-s leading tyremaker, to set up an 80-million-baht plant to make rubber compound has been put off and their further co-investment for a five-billion-baht tyre-manufacturing plant in Thailand has also been shelved.

Seagift executives informed the Thai side that they would resume talks (over the investments) once local politics became clearer, according to Luckchai Kittipol, president of Thai Hua Rubber Plc.

He said that the Chinese partner had visited Thailand early this year and had expressed concern about the Thai politics. They decided to freeze the project to make about 25,000 tonnes of rubber compound, a mixture of rubber and chemical additives used in the tyre industry, for exports to China.

As there is no investment in primary product or rubber compound, the venture for making two million tyres a year is consequently put on hold, he said.

According to Mr Luckchai, the company will not find other partners but will wait for better political and economic circumstances.

"In my view, the political impasse today is beyond my expectation and I think rampant protests in Bangkok these days have worsened the economy critically," Mr Luckchai said.

However, he said that these risk factors would not hurt Thai Hua-s business much this year and the company is expected to generate about 25 billion baht by the end of the year, up 20% over last year and higher than the 22-billion-baht target.

He attributed the better performance to high rubber prices during the first nine months this year in line with oil prices.

Rapidly falling fuel prices and a slowdown in the automobile industry around the world have dealt a blow to the rubber industry. Natural rubber futures prices dropped sharply to 53.60 baht a kilogramme (FOB at Bangkok), from the peak of 110.20 baht at end of June.

But he said the downturn just started last month and local rubber operators had earlier performed well most of the year. "What worries me most is the outlook next year, as the global recession could lead to a drop of at least 20% in the company-s sales revenue unless the economy improves," Mr Luckchai added.

Besides Thai Hua Rubber, a major seafood producer and exporter is also feeling the pinch from the recession.

Pacific Fish Processing Co (PFP) has decided to delay its investment in a joint venture to build a 300-million-baht seafood processing plant in Indonesia.

According to the company-s managing director Thawee Piyapatana, the Indonesian counterpart has kept mum over the project, indicating they might want a postponement.

Early this year, PFP announced to set up a seafood plant in the region in order to secure supplies of raw materials and solve a labour shortage.

Mr Thawee expects flat growth for PFP this year, with sales revenue of 2.8 billion baht from an earlier target of three billion baht, of which 1.8 billion baht would be exports.

Sales of its finished products would decline to 13,000 tonnes this year from 15,000 tonnes last year, he added.

 Tokyo Rubber Ends Down 9.7 Pct, Pressured By Weak Oil

TOKYO, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Tokyo rubber futures closed down 9,7 percent on Monday as tumbling crude oil prices fanned investor worries about global demand, with the benchmark rubber contract dipping to a near four-year low.
   * The key Tokyo Commodity Exchange rubber contract for May delivery <0#JRU:> closed at 124.2 yen per kg, down 13.4 yen or about 9.7 percent, after earlier hitting an intraday low of 122.1 yen, the lowest since January 2005.
   * "The market has not yet factored in a fall in demand due to the global recession," said Takashi Ogura, a director at Kanetsu Asset Management Co.
   "Prices are low, having fallen more than 50 percent from a peak. But technical charts suggest room for further falls," he said, adding that the short-term market range fell to 100-150 yen late last month from 150-200 yen previously.
   * U.S. crude futures <CLc1> fell below $53 per barrel on Monday after producer cartel OPEC decided over the weekend to delay consideration of a third supply cut to its next meeting later in December as economic woes reduce oil demand. [O/R]
   * Amid concerns about the global economy, rubber prices often move in line with oil prices.
   * Trading in the physical rubber market has been slow due to continued political confusion in Thailand, the world's top rubber producer.
   * In Thailand, anti-government protestors ignored a police order to end a blockade of Bangkok's main airport, which entered its seventh day on Monday. [ID:nSP258694]
    * Rubber inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 3 percent to 65,995 tonnes in the week ended on Thursday, the exchange said on Friday. It was the lowest level since the week ended on Nov. 6.
   
   PRICES OF ASIAN PHYSICAL RUBBER COMPARED WITH FRIDAY
   Grade                                Price        Change
   Thai RSS3 (Jan)                     $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Thai RSS3 (Feb)                     $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Thai STR20 (Jan)                    $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Thai STR20 (Feb)                    $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Malaysia SMR20 (Jan)                $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Malaysia SMR20 (Feb)                $1.40/kg      -$0.05
   Indonesia SIR20 (Jan)               $0.62/lb      -$0.01
   Indonesia SIR20 (Feb)               $0.62/lb      -$0.01
   Thai USS3                           44 baht/kg   unchanged
   Thai 60-percent latex (drums, Jan)  $1,100/tonne unchanged
   Thai 60-percent latex (bulk, Jan)     $950/tonne unchanged ** NOTE - The prices quoted above are offer prices collected from traders in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. They are not official prices quoted by state-run rubber agencies in those countries. (Reporting by Risa Maeda, Miho Yoshikawa) ((risa.maeda@thomsonreuters.com;  +81 3 6441 1856 ; Reuters Messaging: risa.maeda.reuters.com@reuters.net))

 TOCOM Rubber Up 2.8 Pct As Oil Prices Rebound (07Nov2008)

BANGKOK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Tokyo rubber futures ended 2,8 percent higher on Friday, bouncing back from early losses due to speculative buying, fuelled by a recovery in oil prices.

* The benchmark April 2009 contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange <0#JRU:> rose 5.0 yen, or 2.8 percent, to settle at 183.9 yen ($1.89) per kg.

* Oil rebounded from a 20-month low to hover above $61 a barrel on Friday, although the gloomy economic outlook is likely to weigh on near-term energy demand. 

* Rubber prices often move in line with oil as both markets are sensitive to demand from automobile users.

* Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> more than halved its profit forecast, saying annual net earnings would plunge to a nine-year low as the financial crisis batters demand for its cars, cuts access to credit and sends the yen higher. [ID:nT27754]

* Trade in the Tokyo rubber market remained volatile, with investor sentiment at the mercy of wild swings in other financial markets.

* Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average <.N225> fell 3.5 percent on Friday, adding to the pressure on TOCOM futures.[.T]

* On the physical front, rubber prices were lower after early falls on TOCOM and trade remained thin.

 

PRICES OF ASIAN PHYSICAL RUBBER COMPARED WITH THURSDAY

Grade                                Price         Change

Thai RSS3 (Dec)                     $1.80/kg      -$0.15

Thai RSS3 (Jan)                     $1.80/kg      -$0.15

Thai STR20 (Dec)                    $1.78/kg      -$0.12

Thai STR20 (Jan)                    $1.78/kg      -$0.12

Malaysia SMR20 (Dec)                $1.80/kg      -$0.05

Malaysia SMR20 (Jan)                $1.80/kg      -$0.05

Indonesia SIR20 (Dec)               $0.80/lb      -$0.04

Indonesia SIR20 (Jan)               $0.80/lb      -$0.04

Thai USS3                           58 baht/kg    - 2 baht

Thai 60-percent latex (drums, Dec)  $1,400/tonne  -$100

Thai 60-percent latex (bulk, Dec)   $1,400/tonne  -$100

($1=35.02 baht)

($1=97.65 Yen)

(Reporting by Risa Maeda and Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Editing by Alan Raybould)

 Asia Rubber-Thai Unrest Disrupts Transport

SINGAPORE, Sept 9 (Reuters) - A rail strike linked to anti-government protests has disrupted rubber transport in Thailand, the world's main producer, while demand from tyre makers stir up the physical markets, dealers said on Tuesday.

    Bridgestone <5108.T> and Goodyear Tire and Rubber <GT.N> bought Indonesia's SIR20 grade but consumers turned their back on Thai's RSS3 as tight supplies and transport woes kept prices at high levels near $3 a kg, they said.

    "Supplies have been affected by rains and the raw material market is quite firm. I don't hear deals for RSS3 because the price is close to $3, which is a level no buyers can pay," said a dealer in Thailand's southern city of Hat Yai.

    "Train services have stopped because many southerners support the protests. We can only send rubber by trucks and deliveries to Bangkok and Penang in Malaysia have been affected. But it's hard to say how much shipments have been delayed."

    A rail strike since Aug. 29 has paralysed rubber movements in the south, the country's main rubber-growing area, which produces around 90 percent of its annual production of 3 million tonnes.

    The leaders of 43 public sector unions representing 200,000 workers have launched strikes to support a three-month street campaign to force Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej from power.

    "Adding to the continuing raw material problems are heavy rains in Thailand and northern Malaysia and a rapid backing-up of Thai shipments" due to the rail strike, said a dealer in Jakarta.

    "Goodyear and Bridgestone are apparently keen but only partially successful buyers of October (shipments). I mean some sellers are reluctant to trade in case prices rise again," he said.

    SIR20 was traded late on Monday at 131.75 U.S. cents per pound ($2.90 a kg) for October shipment free on board Belawan, Palembang and Padang in Sumatra. January was bid at 126.75 cents per pound.

    Malaysia's SMR20 was offered at $2.95 a kg and Thai RSS3/STR20 at $2.98 a kg on Tuesday -- down from last week's $2.98 and $3.00 respectively.

    Dealers shrugged off an increase in rubber inventories in China, the world's largest consumer, which was due to the arrivals of more stocks from Hainan province -- the country's largest rubber-producing area.

    "I think sentiment is quite OK. Bridgestone and Goodyear want to buy October shipments and India is trying to buy September. People still need nearby rubber and I think there's a bit of tightness on the raw material," said a dealer in Singapore.

    "However, we're governed by other commodities such as gold and oil. Once gold or oil come down, there's a 100 percent chance that rubber will also come down," said the dealer, referring to oil-driven Tokyo rubber futures.

    The key rubber contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange <0#JRU:> for February delivery fell 7.9 yen, or 2.6 percent, to 306.0 yen per kg, tracking weaker oil <CLc1>.

    Rubber inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 9 percent to 49,740 tonnes in the week ended on September 4 from 45,460 tonnes the week before.

 (Additional reporting by Chikafumi Hodo in TOKYO; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

 ((lewa.pardomuan@reuters.com; +65 6870 3834; Reuters Messaging:lewa.pardomuan.reuters.com@reuters.net))

 Gustav Expected to Regain Hurricane Status; Gasoline Inventories Down Again

Tropical Storm Gustav was a key worry for traders, along with data from the Energy Department, which showed an unexpected decline in crude inventories last week as well as a drop in gasoline supplies for the fifth week in a row.
Gustav was downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed over Haiti Wednesday morning, but forecasters expect it to slowly strengthen as it moves away from that country.
Gustav could become a hurricane again in the next day or two, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. EDT update.
Energy traders kept a watchful eye out for any changes in its path to the northwest, in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is home to about a quarter of U.S. oil production, according to Reuters. Read more.
"There is nothing in Gustav's path that will hinder development," said John Kocet, expert senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com. "There is a strong probability that it will be a Category 3 storm by the time it enters the Gulf, and it has the potential to strengthen into a Category 4 or 5 storm over the Gulf."
Gustav's sustained winds were near 60 miles an hour at the NHC's latest update. A Category 3 hurricane packs winds of 111 to 130 miles an hour.
Gustav would become the first major hurricane in the Gulf since Wilma during the historic 2005 hurricane season, according to AccuWeather.com.
But "it's still way too far out to project a path with any accuracy right now," said Beth Sewell, a managing partner at Quantum Gas & Power Services. Early Wednesday, it looked like New Orleans was a likely target, she said.
"But to get there, it has to go thru a lot of offshore production," said Sewell.

Link to MarketWatch.com full story:
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/crude-up-more-1-storm/story.aspx?guid=%7BB8F70645-770A-4621-88DE-D99824E3521C%7D&dist=msr_2

 Oil prices jump as Gustav threatens

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices ended the day higher on Wednesday as Tropical Storm Gustav approached the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. crude settled up $1.88 to $118.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude had traded as high as $119.63 a barrel during the session. Wednesday's settlement is the highest close since last week, when oil closed at $121.18 on Thursday, Aug. 21.

Weather worries dominated the oil markets on Wednesday.

"What we could see is that (the storm) destroys some rigs," said Amanda Kurzendoerfer, commodities analyst at Summit Energy. That would mean "that our supply could be hindered for an unforeseen amount of time."

In addition, "there is a very heavy concentration of refineries along the Gulf Coast," said Kurzendoerfer. Refineries turn crude oil into products that consumers use, like gas. "If the storm hits land and it is very powerful when it hits land, it could disrupt some refinery operations."

The combination of production and refinery disruption would mean higher gas prices at the pump, said Kurzendoerfer.

The National Hurricane Center projected Gustav could strengthen as it passes over Haiti, and touches the Louisiana coast by Monday.

Oil platforms in and around the Gulf of Mexico account for more than a quarter of U.S. oil production. They are also vulnerable to extreme storms such as hurricanes.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, both of which reached Category 5 strength before making landfall, destroyed 113 offshore oil and natural gas platforms and damaged 457 pipelines, according to the government.

Unless Gustav bypasses the Gulf, it could reach Category 3 or 4, said Brian Wimer, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.

"Once [Gustav] gets into the Gulf of Mexico, conditions are favorable for further strengthening," he noted.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS) has evacuated all non-essential staff from its off-shore oil rigs, according to Robin Lebovitz, a spokesman at the company. In addition, a recorded message on an information hotline at British Petroleum (BP) said the company was also evacuating non-essential personnel from their off-shore oil rigs. Both companies said the evacuations would not impact oil production.

And Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) said it was monitoring the storm closely.

"One of the most menacing aspects of Gustav is that it's approaching over a three-day weekend," said James Cordier, founder of OptionSellers.com in Tampa, Fla.

Investors usually buy and hold going into a weekend, just in case disaster strikes, sending prices higher. Because Monday is Labor Day, the U.S. market is closed longer than usual.

Inventories: Investors offered little reaction Wednesday morning to a government inventory report showing a decline in crude and gasoline supplies.

The U.S. Energy Department, in a weekly report, said that stockpiles of unused crude fell by 100,000 barrels and gasoline stockpiles fell by 1.2 million barrels last week. Economists had expected crude supplies to rise by 1.5 million barrels, and gas to fall by 2.8 million, according to a survey from Platts, the energy research arm of McGraw Hill Cos.

Supplies of distillates, which are used to make diesel fuel and heating oil, remained unchanged.

Over the past several weeks, the Energy Department has reported unexpected buildups and drawdowns in supplies of petroleum commodities. Investors had been paying particularly close attention to gasoline stocks.

Supply estimates are "an imprecise science," said Tom Orr, head of research for financial services firm Weeden & Co. Weekly supplies depend heavily on weather patterns and on whether or not tankers are able to deliver their cargos.

Dollar: Oil got a boost from a weaker dollar during Wednesday's session, but pulled back slightly as the dollar market reined in its losses.

Oil prices have risen and fallen very closely in relation to the dollar over the past several months.

Oil is traded in U.S. dollars. So when the dollar loses strength, oil becomes cheaper for foreign investors. Many also purchase oil and other commodities as a hedge against inflation.

The dollar fell in value against the 15-nation euro Wednesday as investors mulled the possibility that inflation is coming under control, but losses were lower around 1:00 p.m. ET.

Over the past several weeks the dollar has gained strength against the euro as investors worried that economic trouble may cause the European Central Bank to cut a key interest rate in order to keep cash flowing through the economy.

Some investors are starting to feel that the monetary policies are where they should be, and that "discussions about declining rates in Europe are premature," said Orr.

Crude was higher earlier in the day as dollar values deteriorated, but then prices pulled back as the dollar's losses shrank.

The dollar strengthened on Tuesday as Gustav moved into the Caribbean, keeping prices from rising too much, but the dollar reversed on Wednesday, taking that pressure away.

Demand: Oil prices have fallen more than 20% since hitting a record high of $147.27 on July 11.

Investors worried that high oil prices had cut into consumption as businesses reigned in spending and consumers drove less.

Retail gasoline prices have followed crude, sliding to a nationwide average of $3.667 a gallon on Wednesday.

By Kenneth Musante, CNNMoney.com staff writer
Last Updated: August 27, 2008: 3:21 PM EDT

 Sinochem To Buy 51% of Singaporean Rubber Firm GMG Global

Sinochem International Corporate has approved a proposal to offer shareholders of a Singaporean rubber company to buy stakes from them.

The listed subsidiary of State-owned chemical trader Sinochem Corp is targeting a 51 percent stake in GMG Global Ltd a planter and processor of natural rubber listed in Singapore.

Sinochem International has slotted 1.34 billion yuan for the deal, offering shareholders 1.3 yuan per share. It is targeting to buy 1.03 billion shares.

In a statement filed with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the company said the acquisition would be conducted via its wholly owned Singapore unit, Sinochem International (Overseas) Pte Ltd.

GMG Holding (HK) Ltd and Panwell Ltd are the two largest shareholders of GMG Global, with a combined 60.71 percent stake.

The statement said if the 51 percent level is not reached, the two largest shareholders have promised to transfer some of their shares to Sinochem to meet the target.

After the purchase, GMG Global will be listed on the Singapore Exchange, according to the statement.

The National Development and Reform Commission and Singapore authorities have approved the deal.

The validity period for the offer is between July 25 and Aug 22.

Rubber is one of the core operating sectors of Sinochem International and its market share of sales has ranked the first place in China for several years.

GMG Global's natural rubber business covers Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. It has plantations and processing factories in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.

Sinochem said the acquisition would boost its presence in the global rubber industry, and help the company obtain upstream resources in Africa.

Natural rubber is one of the most important strategic materials, while more than half of it is used for tires. At present, China's annual yield of natural rubber accounted for 7 percent of the world's total, but its consumption took up over 20 percent.

Experts said the growth rate of the country's domestic natural rubber production is only equal to one-third of the rise rate of its consumption. They see the gap between supply and demand increasingly widening in China.

(China Daily 07/12/2008)

 Bio-Fuels, Natural Rubber And The World Food Supply

MARISA MULLETT - Cutting-edge research in food, agricultural and environmental sciences impacts bio-fuel production, natural rubber manufacturing, the global food supply and much more. This past week, I spent a day in Wooster with researchers at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (Ohio State University's research arm, OARDC). The scientists shared some of their research projects that are gaining momentum, private industry support, and international attention.

One major research effort focuses on finding a way to use dandelions for domestic natural rubber production. Right now, the United States imports 100 percent of its natural rubber from Southeast Asia. However, blight is killing some of the trees in Asia that produce this rubber. Research that is unfolding in Wooster will provide the United States with the knowledge-base it needs to produce the rubber if, and when, the trees in Asia cannot keep up with demand.

According to scientists at OARDC, there are 2,000 plants in the world that naturally produce rubber. But, only a few of them have high-quality rubber properties, including dandelions.

Ohio State University has partnered with local industry and the two are in the process of building a small-scale plant that would process the rubber. They are optimistic that this plant will serve as a model for other large-scale plants in the future.

On the economic side of this effort, there is indeed a market for the rubber. In 2002, natural rubber sold for approximately $.25 a pound and in 2008 it sells for more than $1.25 a pound.

Another hot area of research at OARDC is alternative energy production. Researchers and extension professionals at the research station have been successful in turning food waste into biogas, which is an efficient, eco-friendly, energy source.

By using anaerobic digesters, the researchers convert food from grocery stores (produce and other products that have exceeded their shelf life and would otherwise head off to a landfill) and waste from food processing facilities (such as Frito-Lay, Kraft, and cheese plants) into methane.

It is estimated that there is enough food processing waste in Ohio to meet 65 percent of the state's residential energy needs.

Another area of research that has been underway for many years is examining the soil quality and crop yields in fields that have been conventionally tilled (with a chisel plow, etc. before planting) versus those that are not tilled, referred to as no-till.

At the research facility, there are small corn and soybeans test plots growing side-by-side. When the scientists grabbed a handful of soil from the tilled and no-till plots and compared them, the difference was very clear. No-till soil has a higher level of organic matter than tilled soil, making it much darker. Soil that has not been tilled is also less compacted than soil that has been worked. This increases the plant's ability to establish a strong root system and the soil's ability to hold and store water.

In central Ohio, tilling the soil has a substantial negative impact on yields. Researchers have found that no-till corn fields produce, on average, 17 bushels per acre more than fields that have been tilled.

OARDC is indeed a historic research facility that is dedicated to advancing society in the areas of food, agricultural, and environmental sciences. Ohio State University Extension and OARDC partner for many tours, activities and educational workshops throughout the year. Contact your local Extension office or OARDC (oardc.osu.edu) for more information about these opportunities.

AUG 9, 2008 - Marissa Mullett is an Ohio State University Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources/community development in Coshocton County

 Ghana: Relations With China - Into the Claws of Another Predator?

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

Posted 29 July 2008

Francis Kokutse Accra

More and more, China seems to be taking up any commodity that can be had from Ghana. From copper waste and scrap, timber and natural rubber to aluminium waste and scrap and vegetable products are being exported to the upcoming Asian superpower.

Cocoa is the latest addition to the list. Ghana is to export 6,500 metric tonnes to China this year, says Isaac Osei, chief executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).

 
This uptake of cocoa is meant to pay for the construction of the ongoing hydro-power project at Bui, north-east of the capital Accra. Government sources indicated last year that an arrangement had been entered into where cocoa production would be increased to supply extra cocoa to China.

Trade between the two countries has blossomed over the years, with China benefitting most.

By 2000, exports to China totalled only 25 million dollars with imports of 93 million dollars. Exports grew to 32 million dollars in 2003 with imports of 180 million dollars. In 2006, the figure went up to 39 million dollars for exports while imports surged to 504 million dollars.

Despite the Bui project, some Ghanaians are concerned that China is benefiting from trade liberalisation by African countries while the same is not true the other way round. Virtually every African country has opened its doors wide to cheap Chinese imports.

Osei pointed out in April this year at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in Accra that Ghana's efforts to promote cocoa trade with emerging industrial giants such as China and India were being undermined by trade tariffs applied to developing producers.

Osei said developing countries such as Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire faced higher tariffs on cocoa imports to China and India than less-developed producers such as Benin, Guinea, Haiti, Togo or Uganda. "For us, it discourages investment in the cocoa sector here."

There is disquiet within the cocoa industry because of the way consuming nations have continued to create distortions in the pricing of the commodity. Speaking on the same platform as Osei, finance minister Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu said there was an imbalance in the cocoa pricing system and urged cocoa-producing states to join forces.

"The current cocoa-chocolate value chain is characterised by an imbalance where the manufacturing and processing end is well positioned at the high value end, compared to the cocoa producers who receive a low share of the final price," he said. With China's heightened visibility through cheap goods, some Ghanaians are particularly unhappy about the Asian state's approach to Ghana.

Alfred Neimann, a commodity analyst at BMT Associates in London told IPS this development "is really surprising since China and India have maintained profiles as leading the development cause of the developing world.

"China needs to open up more and be flexible, especially when she is dealing with countries in the South. That is the only way that China can show that it is on the side of development," he added.

Neimann said it is unfair that China -- having taken advantage of the free trade environment to flood poorer countries, especially Africa, with cheap imports which may not necessarily be of high quality -- turns round to prevent the flow of goods into its territory.

Gabriel Orji, an official working in the Nigerian ministry of trade, said that "there is no friendship when it comes to trade. What is happening between China and African states now is an evolving relationship that has to be properly defined and nurtured.

"Africa cannot move away from one predator only to get herself into the claws of another," Orji said. The governments of African states should use their encounters with their Chinese counterparts to get them to see things from the African perspective, he added.

Getting proper rules in place is important for Ghana. The country is on course to meeting a national target of one million tonnes of cocoa a year by 2010. Consequently, it is keen to find more markets for its produce, apart from other attempts to add value to products locally.

China is a potential market and, with improved trade relations, Ghana is likely to sell more cocoa since local processing facilities are not strong on the ground yet.

An alternative is to find other ready markets. Already there have been diplomatic moves to export cocoa to Cuba but this will take time. Thus there is the need to find ways to create favourable trade environments devoid of hindrances.

Employing about a million people in the six cocoa growing districts throughout the country, the cocoa industry is a major contributor to government revenue. It earned about 1.2 billion dollars last year.

 Vytex(TM) Natural Rubber Latex Manufacturing Test Results Get International Latex Conference Buzzing

CLEVELAND, July 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Immunochemist Mark C. Swanson got leading scientists and researchers at the International Latex Conference 2008 excited about a bright future for natural rubber latex (NRL) yesterday with insights into the development and practical applications of Vytex(TM) NRL from Vystar Corporation. This commercially available NRL source material has ultra low antigenic protein levels as raw material while preserving desirable NRL properties in finished products.


Vystar Chief Executive Officer William Doyle said, "We are very fortunate to have a scientist of Mark's stature engaged in evaluating and testing Vytex NRL. Mark is a highly-regarded researcher in latex protein interaction who is frequently called upon by employers and agencies to evaluate workplace bioaerosols and their remedies."

Presenting to the conference, Swanson called Vytex NRL a standardized source material for the production of natural rubber products using NRL that is modified to significantly reduce its antigenic protein content. He pointed out that this innovative product, currently being produced under a toll manufacturing agreement with Revertex Malaysia, can be used in a wide array of medical and non-medical applications.

Vytex NRL is produced at the latex processor level and can be easily integrated into current manufacturing environments without additional capital equipment investment. The multi-patented modification process that leads to Vytex NRL also has the potential to allow manufacturers to lower manufacturing costs with reductions in process time, energy, water and material handling consumption.

Altogether, more than 500 medical and non-medical products made with Vytex NRL have been independently tested using accredited ASTM protein test methodologies. Among the products produced and tested are surgical gloves, condoms, foam (as used in mattresses and pillows), adhesives, tubing, probe covers and breather bags. Swanson reported that test results show that in addition to significantly reduced antigenic protein levels; products made with Vytex NRL demonstrate improved physical properties important to end-product quality such as tensile strength and resistance to aging when compared to non- Vytex NRL.

The full text of the technical paper Swanson delivered, Vytex(TM) Natural Rubber Latex:

An Innovative Source Material for Natural Rubber Products, is now available online at www.vytex.com. Swanson and Doyle co-authored the paper along with Industry Consultant Russell Culp and Vystar Vice President, Technical Services, Matthew Clark.

Vystar Corp. is the exclusive creator of the innovative technology to produce Vytex Natural Rubber Latex(TM) (NRL). While latex allergy is most common in the healthcare industry because of workers' prolonged and/or repeated contact with latex, it is estimated that as many as 17 percent of healthcare workers and three percent of the general population could have an allergic reaction to the protein in natural rubber latex. However, because of its superior product qualities, like barrier protection, strength and durability, fit and comfort, environmental impact, cost, etc., it is the material of choice for a vast array of everyday products.

About Mark Swanson: Mark C. Swanson is an immunochemist of 30 years working for the Mayo Foundation, Rochester, MN. He holds degrees from St. Cloud State University, in bio-medical science and chemistry. He founded Quan-Tec-Air, Inc. in 1985. The company is dedicated to the quantification of asthmagenic bio-aerosols using specialized sampling, filtration and immunoassay techniques. The combination of air sampling expertise and de novo immunoassay design and implementation makes him a unique and valuable resource for immuno-aero-biological health hazard assessment.

About Vystar Corporation: Vystar Corporation, incorporated in 2003, is a privately funded corporation located in the Atlanta area. It is included in the portfolio of Universal Capital Management, Inc., a business development company that provides management and strategic growth resources to emerging growth companies. The company's operations have been focused substantially on early-stage research, development, testing and commercialization of the Vytex NRL process. Vystar, named a 2007 Top 10 Innovative Technology Company in Georgia by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), holds two U.S. patents for the Vytex(TM) NRL technology, with two additional filings pending. For more information, please visit www.vytex.com .

Forward-looking Statements: Certain matters discussed in this press release are "forward-looking statements." These forward-looking statements can generally be identified as such because the context of the statement will include words, such as Vystar Corporation "expects," "should," "believes," "anticipates" or words of similar import. Similarly, statements that describe Vystar's future plans, objectives or goals are also forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, including the financial performance of Vystar as appropriate, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those currently anticipated. Although Vystar believes the expectations reflected in any forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, they cannot give any assurance that their expectations will be attained. Shareholders, potential investors and other readers are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating any forward-looking statements. Certain factors could cause results and conditions to differ materially from those projected in these forward-looking statements, and some of these factors are discussed. These factors are not exhaustive. New factors, risks and uncertainties may emerge from time to time that may affect the forward-looking statements made herein. These forward-looking statements are only made as of the date of this press release and Vystar does not undertake any obligation to publicly update such forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Vystar Corporation

 Natural Rubber Price Hits New High

Kozhikode, May 7 (IANS) The price of natural rubber touched Rs.120 per kilogram Wednesday in Kochi, the highest price recorded so far for the RSS-4 (Ribbed Smoked Sheet-4) grade in the Indian market. The other grades of natural rubber also recorded corresponding increase in prices Wednesday. “The price of rubber was moving in tandem with the crude prices as the synthetic rubber is manufactured from crude oil. We think the prices will harden further,” a senior official in the Rubber Board told IANS requesting anonymity.

Before the current season, the highest price for rubber was Rs.115 per kilogram, recorded in May 2006.

The Rubber Board, headquartered in Kottayam in Kerala, is a statutory body created under the central government for overall development in the rubber industry.

In the rubber market, difference between international and Indian prices was common. Earlier, the international prices used to remain higher than Indian prices, but now the situation is changing.

According to the official, the country held a stock of 153,000 tonnes of rubber at April-end. This included the stock held by manufacturers, processors, dealers and growers.

People may be wondering why the rubber price is rising when there is such a huge stock. But the fact is that only 50 percent of the stock remains with manufacturers and processors. The rest is with dealers and growers,” he said.

Though the heavy summer rains this year ushered in early rubber tapping season in Kerala, it did not help much in raising rubber production as two bouts of leaf fall disease affected production, the officials added.

 Double the rubber to make Mardec worldís No 1

SEREMBAN: The Malaysian Rubber Development Corporation (Mardec) expects to double its annual latex production to 400,000 metric tonnes by 2010, said its chairman Datuk Syed Abdul Jabbar Shahabudin.

With this, Mardec, which has operations in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Vietnam -- the world's top rubber producers -- would become the largest rubber processing conglomerate in the world.

Its expects to produce 210,000 metric tonnes of latex this year.

"This year alone, Mardec had increased its interest in several ventures based in these four countries. We are expanding our operations locally as well as abroad," Syed Abdul Jabbar said at Mardec's Quality Convention 2007 here on Monday.

He said Mardec had also entered into several joint ventures in these countries in its efforts to consolidate its position as the world's biggest rubber processing entity.

"We have among others, set up a joint venture company in Way Kanan in Riau Indonesia and gained full control of Mardec Saigon Rubber in Vietnam," he said.

However, he admitted that new methods would need to be devised to increase natural rubber consumption if Mardec was to achieve its objectives.

"We need to be more creative and find new ways to increase demand for the commodity. We can no longer rely on old techniques and strategies to increase rubber consumption," he said.

 Mardec To Invest RM20 Mln To Turn Out Compounded Rubber

SEREMBAN, Nov 27 (Bernama) -- Mardec Bhd intends to invest RM20 million to produce compounded rubber at all of its six plants that turn out Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR), it said Tuesday.

The move is to capitalise on the exemption from the cess of 13.92 sen a kg on compounded rubber produced for export, it said in a statement issued at the end of the 2007 Mardec Quality Convention here.

Of the cess, 9.32 sen goes to the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) to help finance replanting and 4 sen to the Rubber Fund Board to help fund research and development.

Most of Malaysia's compounded rubber is exported to China, Malaysia's main importer of Malaysian rubber, which last year bought 145,000 metric tonnes or 27 percent of its total demand.

Besides, China's fast-growing automobile industry is increasing its demand for compounded rubber to produce tyres.

At most of the rubber producing plants in Malaysia, compounded rubber accounts for 20-30 percent of their total output, and this is expected to increase, Mardec noted.

With the exemption of the cess, which nets about RM1 million a month, Mardec said it will be able to be more competitive in buying scrap rubber from smallholders.

According to a study by the Malaysian SMR Rubber Processors Association (MSRPA), there is 30 percent overcapacity in natural rubber production in the country as many firms have invested in facilities to produce compounded rubber to improve their competitiveness and take advantage of the cess exemption.

Meanwhile, scrap rubber suppliers hope Mardec will support their call to the government to stop indiscriminately issuing licences to deal in scrap rubber to stave off "overcrowding" in the subsector which is affecting the quality of scrap rubber.

They feel that if the situation is not remedied, the perception of the quality of SMR rubber will be affected

 City on Tire Recycling: Show Us Cash

September 27, 2008 - GALLUP - The City Council wants guarantees that it won’t be jumping into the choppy waters of the rubber recycling business on its own.

Crumbing used tires into fine powder for reuse in mats and a limited list of other rubber products has been going on for decades. But no one has thus far managed to “devulcanize” that crumb, breaking it down even further into the raw rubber it came from, and make it pay.

The Malaysian-based Petra Group claims it has found a way, and has asked the city and county to pour $500,000 each into building the plant it needs to make it happen along Hasler Valley Road east of the food pantry. But before investing its share, the City Council wants to make sure Gov. Bill Richardson makes good on his pledge to add $2.9 million in state funds to the pot first. The council passed a resolution unanimously Tuesday making its contribution contingent on the county and — most important — the state appropriate their own shares.

Amid growing concerns about the ability of Petra, and its stateside subsidiary Green Rubber Global, to deliver, the move adds a caveat to the July 11 memorandum of understanding in which the council pledged the $500,000. After claiming the plant would bring more than 140 new jobs to the area, Green Rubber has cut its guarantee back to 20 or 30 the day the plant opens, tentatively scheduled for the end of 2008.

Rubber industry skeptics of Green Rubber’s claims have suggested that government officials wait for the company to find buyers for the rubber the plant will produce before investing. Gallup Mayor Harry Mendoza said the city will consider making that a condition of its $500,000 as well.

Green Rubber President Rick Homans said the company was working to line up manufacturers that could relocate here and put its rubber to use.

Worst case, Mendoza said, the city and county spends a combined $1 million building the plant, Green Rubber fails to move in, and “we end up with a big old building.”

 Synthetic Rubber Punctures Dreams of Growers

September 30, 2006 - KOCHI: Rubber farmers are again on a sticky wicket with the synthetic rubber consumption registering a marginal leap, bringing down the prices.

The change in consumption pattern, with users' demand shifting from natural rubber (NR) to synthetic rubber (SR), has caused big worries for the farmers.

Synthetic rubber has been seeing higher demand primarily from industrial consumers since its prices fell following the softening of crude oil.

According to market estimates a 2 per cent rise in demand was registered for synthetic rubber in the current financial year. This means SR accounts for 25 per cent of total rubber intake, with natural rubber constituting 75 per cent. Earlier, the NR and SR ratio was 77:23.
If growers are to be believed, futures prices are currently under a tight control of a section of speculative traders. Growers feel that the sharp fall in prices over the past couple of days is a planned move.

Traders say that confusion reigns supreme in rubber market and nobody can predict a definite direction. The market was expected to see a drop in prices during the off-season, as there was a good stock with growers.

Experts feel the stock could be so huge that the market may witness excessive supply, which will be tragic for farmers during the off-season. The Rubber Board had also warned of a difficult situation a few weeks ago.

At the beginning of the current financial year, Rubber Board had projected a total consumption of 8,41,000 tonne at a growth rate of 5 per cent. The board later re-estimated the consumption at 8,13,000 tonne expecting a 1.5 per cent growth only.

 Bananas, Cocoa Mix With Tires in New Farming Approach

In a scene from the 1932 melodrama "Red Dust," Clark Gable and Mary Astor watch plantation laborers pour a white liquid.

"It's milk!" Astor exclaims.

"Oh no, just rubber," says Gable. "But you could drink it.

"If you care to stretch a point!"

Bad puns aside, it wasn't technically rubber, either. It was still latex at that point; pure latex is what flows from tapped trunks of the hevea brasiliensis, or rubber tree, much like maple syrup.

Latex is the essential base ingredient in the rubber needed to make everything from tennis shoes to balloons to auto tires. Latex becomes rubber after it is subjected to high heat and mixed with a curing agent, such as sulfur, which makes it hard, durable and non-sticky. This process, discovered in 1839 by Charles Goodyear, is called vulcanization - after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

The first automobile tires were white, just like the raw latex. But, later, carbon black was added to improve traction characteristics. Voila! Black tires.

The process hasn't changed much since "Red Dust" days, although tires have more ingredients, such as chemicals and polymers, in them today. In fact, the amount of actual latex in the average passenger car tire is now about 40 percent; the percentage is higher - about 65 percent - in truck tires because they need stronger sidewalls and better weight-carrying ability. And that is an area where latex still provides irreplaceable strength.

The hevea tree is native to Brazil, and for many years they would only grow in their natural habitat. About a century ago, however, the trees were finally successfully transplanted to Africa, Siam, and Malaysia. Now, more than two-thirds of the world's rubber production comes from the Southeast Asia area, where the plantation system has been mostly replaced by small farms run by families, who sell their latex production in a cooperative market system operated out of Singapore.

While rubber production is thriving in Asia, the industry is struggling in the place where it originated, in Brazil. Most of the trees were originally most prevalent in the Amazon River basin. But most trees, in the past 50 years or so, have developed a parasite or fungus that caused latex production to be drastically reduced.

So the plantation operators moved to eastern Brazil, in the Atlantic rain forest area of Bahia state, where production was still booming. Unfortunately, when they brought their tools with them, the tools brought the fungus, and soon the Bahia trees were infected, too. So far, the parasite has proven too tough to tame.

But now Michelin, which several decades ago bought Firestone's once-widespread operations in Brazil, is thinking of better ways to run a plantation - by not running one at all. Michelin has subdivided its plantations into parcels of about 1,000 acres each and subcontracted ownership of those blocks to husband-and-wife teams. The couples, in turn, take over growing hevea trees, tapping them for latex and harvesting it. Michelin promises to buy their harvest at fair market rates.

But that is not the end of Michelin's involvement: The company has devised a program to help improve yields from the acreage, by devising a plan by which the owners can grow cocoa and banana plants in alternating rows between the hevea trees.

Hevea must be planted at least a few yards apart, so they don't compete with each other for sunlight. That leaves a little room for something else to be grown in the empty spaces.

The hevea trees, which grow at least 30 feet high, provide a welcome amount of shade for the cocoa - essential to chocolate production. The family farmers, understandably, have a lot of motivation to produce three cash crops, instead of just one.

Michelin is also continuing its research and testing into what is infecting the hevea trees. Healthier, more disease-resistant trees are being developed by Michelin scientists. The healthier varieties are then provided to the family farmers, who cut down the worst of the diseased trees (even diseased trees keep yielding latex, albeit at reduced rates) and replace them with new, healthy trees.

Michelin has also retained a large swath of land bordering the old Bahia plantation, and has turned it into a nature preserve. This area includes a diverse, natural ecosystem that attracts scientists from around the world, who study its flora and fauna. The preserve also protects some scenic wonders, like the huge Pancada waterfall, which can be viewed by the public.

Michelin says it is committed to continuing to help find better, more socially conscious ways to harvest latex and produce rubber. It is new green technology, but the tires will remain black.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

 Tripura, New Land of Indian Latex?

September 26, 2007 - AGARTALA: Natural rubber is stretching far and wide in India. After dominating the Kerala landscape, now it is spreading roots in Tripura.

According to Rubber Board officials, Tripura is well poised to emerge as the next natural rubber capital of India after Kerala.

Anticipating this, the Rubber Board has of late stepped up its activities in a big way in Tripura, which is well suited for rubber cultivation. The Rubber Board has identified 1 lakh hectares as potential area under rubber in the state, of which roughly 31 per cent has already come under cultivation.

It is increasingly being felt that only by increasing rubber production in Tripura and Assam, can the country’s growing natural rubber demand be met without resorting to imports.

A major project with Central Government funding in Tripura is a Rs 7-crore Rubber Park at Bodjungnagar industrial estate.

According to Rubber Board officials, even though severe winter can inhibit the growth of some rubber clones, some areas in Tripura were highly suitable for rubber. The board has a large pilot farm at Taranagar area of Tripura.

The Regional Research Station (RRS) of the Rubber Board was set up in 1979 with the mandate to develop high yielding rubber clones, suitable to the state’s agro-climatic conditions, through classical blending and selection, mother tree selection and clone evaluation.

One of the key responsibilities of the RRS was to determine the ability of natural rubber to restore the degraded eco-systems, especially the ‘jhummed’ lands in Tripura.

It was also mandated to develop location-specific farming technology for producing quality planting materials, crop husbandry including soil and nutrient management practices, disease protection protocols, rubber-based integrated sustainable farming, harvesting techniques and primary processing of latex into marketable forms of rubber.

Wherever applicable, findings from the RRII headquarters in Kottayam have been suitably modified to suit Tripura’s conditions, and the best clones into the two following categories. Category 1: RRIM 600 and Category 11: PB 235; RRII 208; RRII 203; RRII 105; and GT 1.

Most areas in Tripura are planted with RRIM 600 variety, which outperforms RRII's flagship clone (RRII 105), said to be the highest yielder in the traditional region.

Performance of the latest clones (RRII 414 and 430) in Tripura is being evaluated. According to him, the latex yields do drop in summer, but are generally excellent during early winter (December-February).

 Research: Engineering New Domestic Sources of Natural Rubber

Natural rubber is considered a vital raw material by developed countries and is valued for its high performance characteristics. Synthetic rubber, derived from petroleum, is not as elastic or resilient and does not have the heat transfer properties of natural rubber. Although synthetic rubber is often blended with natural rubber, various products, such as airplane tires, cannot be made without the natural form. Also, synthetic rubber is a non-renewable resource whereas natural rubber should be available indefinitely from renewable plant sources. The only commercial source of natural rubber, at the moment, is the Brazilian rubber tree [Hevea brasiliensis (A. Juss.) Mill. Arg.]. The rubber is harvested by tapping into the pipe-like network of latex-containing laticifers that run beneath the bark, a labor-intensive procedure. The expense of tapping and the tree's tropical growth requirements make H. brasiliensis unsuitable for cultivation within the United States. However, because natural rubber is the second most costly raw material imported into the United States after petroleum, there is strong commercial incentive to develop a domestic rubber crop. Moreover, as plantation-grown H. brasiliensis is derived from clonal material grafted onto seedling root stocks all plants of a commercial line are genetically identical to each other. Thus, H. brasiliensis is vulnerable to crop failure should a particularly virulent disease arise. An alternative rubber crop capable of rapid scale up, using fast-growing annual plants or fermentation in a bioreactor, could furnish a protective buffer in the event of an import shortfall. Even if the crop was not profitable initially, the commercial competitiveness of domestic rubber should steadily improve if natural rubber prices increase as anticipated (Greek 1992).

We are attempting to develop a domestic source of natural rubber using a biotechnological approach. To this end, we intend to clarify the biochemistry of rubber formation and identify and isolate the enzymes and genes responsible for the cis-1,4-polymerization of isoprene unique to rubber producing plants. Once accomplished, it should be possible to isolate, then insert and express the appropriate genes into annual plants and/or microorganisms. These systems would then be optimized to produce large amounts of high quality rubber.

A considerable body of information exists on the biological mechanism of rubber biosynthesis and on the adjacent portions of the isoprenoid pathway. This includes the isolation and cloning of genes for enzymes involved in the production of allylic pyrophosphate initiators for new rubber molecules (Anderson et al. 1989a,b). However, before transformation experiments on potential domestic rubber-producing species can be realistically begun, a definitive isolation of the rubber transferase enzyme responsible for rubber molecule elongation, and then its gene, is required.

Parthenium argentatum Gray (guayule) is a promising candidate for a domestic commercial source as it produces high quality rubber in its bark. Unlike, H. brasiliensis, which has the complex laticiferous anatomy to support its rubber production (d'Auzac et al. 1989), P. argentatum simply produces rubber in generalized parenchyma cells in its bark tissue (Backhaus 1985). Furthermore, P. argentatum is native to the warm arid regions of the southwestern United States and is being cultivated there in various preliminary trials. Disadvantages exist in obtaining the rubber from this perennial species as the destructive harvest of mature plants is required. Woody shrubs, at least three years old, must be ground up before the rubber can be extracted. Also, high yields only result when the crop is irrigated and fertilized, and P. argentatum cannot tolerate the severe winters of the northern United States. These characteristics of the crop make it unsuitable for an emergency supply as it could not be rapidly scaled up. Nonetheless, this species is a good model system for studying rubber biosynthesis, and provides a source of genes that may be useful in increasing its own rubber yield and/or for transformation of other species.

Download Full Report (PDF)

 US:Yulex Hopes To Double Rubber Content From The Genetically-Enhanced Desert Plant

Maricopa, AZ -- Yulex, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Mendel Biotechnology have signed an agreement to develop and field test proprietary guayule (why-YOU-lee) plants with enhanced natural rubber latex yields and increased biomass.
Yulex is at the forefront of a clean technology industry in the U.S. southwest based on guayule, a versatile desert plant that has become a commercial source of bio-based rubber latex, and a cellulosic feedstock for bioethanol and other alternative energy production.
Launching this program with Mendel and the Agricultural Research Service will greatly accelerate the achievement of our long term goals which include the ability to provide an economical rubber product on a global basis while providing a regional solution for ethanol production in the Southwest United States,” says Jeffrey Martin, CEO and president of Yulex.
We expect to see a vast improvement in guayule rubber yields which will allow guayule production fields to produce significantly more rubber per acre than rubber plantations in Southeast Asia.” “Using our expertise in plant regulatory genes and proprietary technology in transferring these genes, we are optimistic that we can create improved varieties of guayule that will make twice as much rubber,” says Robert A. Creelman, Ph.D., senior scientist at Mendel Biotechnology that is principle investigator on the project.
Since guayule grows in the United States, these improved varieties will create opportunities for American farmers, reduce our dependence on imported natural latex and rubber, and decrease our use of synthetic latex and rubber." The goal of collaboration is to increase the amount of latex, rubber, and biomass the plant produces. Yulex obtained an exclusive license on a technology developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists in 1997 to extract natural rubber latex from the guayule plant.

 Vietnam Rubber Exports Down in First 7 Months

August 09, 2007

Vietnam exported 344,000 tons of rubber worth 659 million US dollars in the first seven months of this year, year-on-year decrease of 3,2 percent and 0,3 percent, respectively, according to the Vietnam Rubber Association on Thursday.

Vietnam, the world s 4th biggest natural rubber exporter, is expected to sell overseas, mostly to China, South Korea, Japan, Germany and the United States, 830,000 tons of rubber totaling nearly 1.4 billion dollars in 2007, up 19.1 percent and 8 percent over 2006.

The country is predicted to reap 233.2 million dollars from shipping rubber to the European Union in 2007, up from nearly 155. 5 million dollars in 2006, some 125 million dollars in 2005, and nearly 83.6 million dollars in 2004. It earned more than 770 million dollars from exporting the product to China last year.

Vietnam plans to increase its rubber acreage to 700,000 hectares by 2010 from 500,000 hectares in 2005, and build more rubber processing plants in the coming years.

Source: Chinese Xinhua 

 Japanese Yokohama Builds Business BRIC-by-BRIC

August 13, 2007
 
Yokohama Rubber Co Ltd says it is strengthening its operations in Brazil, Russia, India and China, otherwise known as the BRIC countries. Earlier this month, Yokohama launched Yokohama India, its Indian subsidiary, with ceremonies in New Delhi.

"In the past, Yokohama Rubber has marketed passenger car tires in India through its Singaporean tire distributor," say company officials.

"From now on, however, the company will carry out gradual transition to sales activities based on its independent strategy."

In addition, Yokohama has established five manufacturing and sales companies (two tire companies and three non-tire product companies) throughout the BRIC region.

 Vietnamese Firms Started Rubber Cultivation in Cambodia

VNECONOMY updated: 08/08/2007

Three Vietnamese businesses have teamed up to kick-start a joint stock company that will cultivate rubber in Cambodia.

The Phu Rieng-Karatie Joint Stock Company has a total chartered capital of 200 billion VND. The Viet Nam Rubber Industry Group holds a 40 percent stake in the company, with the Phu Rieng Rubber Company and the Da River Corporation coming in for 30 percent each.

A 70 year lease on nearly 1,000 ha of land in Cambodia’s Karatie province was secured by the firm. Some 300 ha of land has been reclaimed and 100 ha is already having rubber trees.
 
Source: Vietnam News Agency

 S. Africa: Tyre And Rubber Strike Is Nearing Its End

By Tina George 13 August 2007

A final settlement to end the three-week old strike in the tyre and rubber manufacturing industry is expected tomorrow or Wednesday.

One outstanding issue was that Goodyear tyre should come out with a plan on how they intend to phase out labour brokers in their employment,” says Maziwakhe Hlangani.

The company has agreed that 100 of 250 employees who are working under labour brokers will be absorbed into permanent staff compliment.

Other issues involved are labour costs which include shift allowances and increases in provident funds contributions which should be tackled again, says Hlangani.

Employer’s New Tyre Industry Association are offering wage increases ranging from 8,5% for the lowest paid workers and 8% across the board.

Source: Bush Radio 89.5 FM, Capetown, South Africa

 USA: Michelin North America to Acquire Oliver Rubber Company

GREENVILLE, SC and FINDLAY, OHIO, July 31 -- PRNewswire-FirstCall -- Michelin North America, Inc today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Oliver Rubber Company, a subsidiary of Cooper Tire and Rubber Company (NYSE: CTB) , which produces tread rubber and retreading equipment. The acquisition will be completed upon receipt by the parties of necessary regulatory approvals. Following the acquisition, Oliver will operate as a subsidiary of Michelin North America, Inc.

This acquisition will complement the manufacturing capability and service network of Oliver with that of the Michelin Retread Technologies (MRT) network, enabling Michelin to extend its reach in the growing commercial retreading market. In 2005 Michelin announced a major expansion of its tread manufacturing facility in Covington, Ga. and, earlier this month, the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Mexico.

The terms of the transaction include a cash purchase price of $69 million. The transaction is subject to final due diligence as well as Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice approval.

"Oliver manufacturing capacity, product portfolio and experienced workforce are a terrific complement to Michelin current retread operation," said Luc Minguet, Chief Operating Officer of Michelin Americas Truck Tire. "We believe the two brands, managed according to Michelin's strategic focus, will offer the North American trucking industry broader access to products and services to better meet their needs."

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is a global company that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of passenger car, light truck, medium truck tires and subsidiaries that specialize in motorcycle and racing tires, as well as tread rubber and related equipment for the retread industry. With headquarters in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper Tire has 63 manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities within its family of companies located around the world. For more information, visit Cooper Tire's web site at: http://www.coopertire.com/

Dedicated to the improvement of sustainable mobility, Michelin designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles and the space shuttle. The company also publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides, maps and road atlases. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America (http://www.michelin-us.com/) employs more than 22,000 and operates 19 major manufacturing plants in 17 locations.

 

 USA: Latexco To Open Latex Manufacturing Plant in Lavonia, GA

Atlanta, March 27, 2006 - The Georgia Department of Economic Development announced today that Latexco, the world s largest producer of latex foam bedding components, will open its first U.S. latex production facility in Lavonia, Ga. The company will produce latex foam bed toppers and foam quilting rolls at the facility, investing over $10 million and employing 40 people by 2007.

We are excited that Latexco has chosen Georgia to build this state-of-the-art facility and manufacture such a marketable product. "This investment is a great result of Georgia s work to foster connections with international companies and other countries,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Craig Lesser.

The new facility is scheduled to open in July 2006. Initially, production will focus on fabricating and distributing bed toppers and rolls made with imported raw materials from Spain and Belgium. The facility will manufacture mattress cores as the U.S. market grows.

With existing production facilities in Belgium, Spain and Indonesia, it makes sense to develop and service the North American market with domestic production of latex cores, toppers, rolls and pillows as soon as possible. The time is now to establish a world-class, customer-driven manufacturing facility in the United States,” said Latexco owner and CEO Luc Maes.

Latexco s move to Franklin County will have a positive impact on the economy of our community and our region, and we are delighted they have selected Lavonia for their entry location into the U.S. market. Latexco has established a reputation in Europe as a company that values their employees, their community and their environment, and we are excited and happy to be working with them,” says Ralph Owens, mayor of Lavonia and chairman of the Franklin County Industrial Building Authority.

Latexco is the world’s leading manufacturer of latex foam components for the bedding industry. Headquartered in Tielt, Belgium, Latexco has 490 employees worldwide with production plants in Belgium, Spain and Indonesia. Sales figures for the company reached over $111 million USD in 2005, and the company produced one million mattress cores, over one million pillows, and two million toppers and quilting rolls.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state s sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia, and promoting the state as a location for film, video and music projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development. For more information, visit www.georgia.org.

Training agreement signed for Latexco
January 28, 2007

LAVONIA - Community leaders, officials with Latexco LLC and North Georgia Technical College representatives recently signed a QuickStart Training Program agreement for the new 100,000-square-foot Latexco facility located in the Gerrard Road Industrial Park in Lavonia.

Latexco LLC, the world s largest producer of latex foam bedding components, is making a $10 million dollar investment in the new facility, and plans to have a workforce of approximately 40 employees by the end of 2007 and up to 100 employees with a future expansion.

The QuickStart Program is nationally recognized for providing high quality training services at no cost to new or expanding businesses in Georgia, including manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, national and international headquarters and information technologies and customer service operations.

 Kumho Unveils Rubber Plant in Vietnam

Binh Duong, Vietnam -- 6 July 2007 -- Rapidly expanding Korean tyre manufacturer Kumho has opened its own rubber processing plant in the Binh Duong Province of Vietnam. The facility will be used to supply Kumho’s new Vietnamese tyre factory as well as those in Korea and other territories.

The plant represents a $4 million per annum investment by Kumho, and will initially allow the company to produce some 11,000 tons of natural rubber latex a year on this 82,645 sq m site – sufficient to help create six million tyres. However, production levels may be increased in the future.

Natural rubber accounts for 25% of the raw material required for tyre production and having its own source of supply will help Kumho overcome the sudden rises in the cost of natural rubber that have been increasingly afflicting the global tyre industry. According to SICOM (Singapore Commodity Exchange Ltd) the price has almost doubled from $1,004 per ton in 2003 to the current average of $2,100 per ton.

At the plant opening ceremony, the CEO of Kumho Tires, Dr Sae-chul Oh, said, "Having our own rubber processing facility will give us new flexibility regarding the supply of raw material to all our tyre plants including Vietnam. We anticipate that this will improve both the quality of our products and our price competitiveness.”

The ceremony was also attended by Nguyen Hoang Son, the chairman of Binh Duong Province and the president of Becamex Industry Complex, Nguyen Van Hung.

Vietnam is the fourth largest rubber exporter in the world, trailing Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia with annual output of 700,000 metric tons.  Vietnam has planned and invested in expanding plantation to achieve its target of 1 million metric ton by 2010.

Source: www.kumhotyre.co.uk

 USA: Englander New Owners To Bring It Abroad

By David Perry -- Furniture Today, 10/18/2006

At The Market, Englander, one of the oldest US bedding brands, is bidding to expand its horizons in this country and around the world.

The brand, owned by its seven domestic licensees since last year, is benefiting from a new team spirit, strong product lines, a history of success in specialty sleep, and a compelling gallery program, its owners say.

The company s showings at the bedding-rich Las Vegas Market are an important part of that growth push. Englander will move into a prime location in the World Market Center s second building, which opens in January. Englander says that move will help raise its profile with domestic and international attendees.

In High Point, the producer plans to continue its showings at a high-visibility showroom in Plaza Suites (space P-100A), making Englander one of a handful of Top 15 bedding producers with permanent showrooms in Las Vegas and High Point.

John Hagglund, Englander s Tualatin, Ore.-based licensee, said the group has enjoyed solid visibility at its markets.

The brand, founded by Max Englander in New York in 1894, has a powerful story to tell marketgoers in both venues, its licensee owners assert. Several of them sat down with Furniture/Today in Vegas to assess the group s progress.

"We have group unity," said Brian Akchin, president of Fraenkel, whose three bedding factories serve nine states in the Southeast and Southwest. "Before, we were fragmented. Now we ve got this great synergy."

Synergy, in fact, is the name of an Englander line consisting primarily of latex and visco-elastic foam. That line provides superior pressure-point reduction, based on pressure mapping tests that Englander demonstrates in its market showrooms and at some of its factories, and it is a strong performer for Englander dealers, Akchin said.

Englander has done well with a Synergy gallery program, one of three gallery programs it offers, said Bob Ashburn, executive vice president of Englander s Rome, Ga.-based licensee, Spears Mattress. (Terry Spears, president of Spears Mattress, is Englander s chairman.) The other gallery programs are built around the new ViscoPedic visco line and the Nature s Finest latex line.

Specialty sleep lines have been important at Englander for decades. The company once was owned by a foam producer, giving it strong entries in that category, Akchin said.

"We are a sleeping giant in latex," he said. "We have been in the latex market for decades. Latex is still one of the greatest sleeping surfaces ever made. Our group uses more pure latex than any other bedding company is using."

Englander s latex, 100% natural, comes from Sri Lanka. "Our product is superior," Akchin asserted. The company s latex lines retail from $999 to $2,999 in queen. Some well-known furniture retailers are putting Englander latex programs in place, he said.

Englander backs its lines with strong point-of-purchase programs, noted Ashburn. The messages coordinate with materials on the company s Web site, and present lifestyle stories.

In addition, the group has a thick sales training notebook, frequently updated, which is designed to give retail sales associates the information they need to tell a strong features-and-benefits story, said Mark Freeman, vice president of sales at Englander s Philadelphia-based licensee. The aim is to boost sales and average unit selling prices, he added.

Now that it has a united front, Englander believes it can take the brand overseas. Ed Ciolkosz, president of Englander s Chicago-based licensee, said the summer Las Vegas market was an excellent one for international prospecting.

"We could have six international licensees by the end of the year," Ciolkosz said. "We haven t gone after them in the past." The brand has no international licensees now.

Englander s good reputation, strong merchandising programs and lines, and rich history make it attractive to prospective licensees, Akchin said.

Englander uses the tag line, "The mattress of choice." That s a message a growing number of retailers are embracing, the company s owners say.

 23Apr2007 Vietnam PM Asks for Further Rubber Sector Development

The Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged the rubber sector to further develop by expanding rubber growing area and improving competitiveness, to sharpen its important role in the country’s economic development.
 
Accordingly, the PM wanted Vietnam’s total rubber plantation area to increase to one million hectares by 2015, doubling the current area.
 
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) on April 22, in Ho Chi Minh City, the PM said VRG has to develop rubber in large quantities at high quality, to complete its operational model and become a strong group able to compete in the world market.
 
PM Dung also praised Vietnam Rubber Corporation’s comprehensive development and great efforts to expand cultivation area, improve rubber quality and create jobs for local people, especially ethnic minority people, in the past 10 years.
 
The corporation has provided jobs for 83,000 people, including 10,000 ethnic minority persons.
 
The establishment of the Vietnam Rubber Group marks the growth of the Vietnam Rubber Corporation,” Dung stressed.
 
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, for its part, has to combine forest re-planting with rubber development.
 
He also asked the group to improve its staff training, party building and political system at a grassroots level. He also expressed hope that over 80,000 cadres and workers will unite for the corporation’s development, actively contributing to the country’s modernization and industrialization.
 
At the ceremony, VRG general director Le Quang Thung said the group has carried out planting more 100,000ha of rubber in central highlands and central coastal provinces; 100,000ha in Lao and 100,000ha in Cambodia.
 
The group is striving to process around 320,000 tons of rubber, with SVR 3L accounting for 40 per cent, and latex for 25 per cent, in 2007. The total processed rubber output is expected to increase to 440,000 tons in 2010.
 
The Vietnam Rubber Group includes 80 subsidiary companies, 22 state-owned enterprises, and over 50 enterprises operating under the Enterprise Law. Around 13 companies have been established to invest abroad.
 
Rubber is one of key agricultural product exports of Vietnam, others include coffee, rice, woodwork, pepper, and cashew.

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 Rubber stocks drop on falling rubber prices, demands (Thanhnien.com.vn) - 6/30/2009
 Asia Rubber-China sniffs around, Bridgestone buys SIR20 - 6/30/2009
 Natural rubber in bear hug (Business-Standard, India) - 6/30/2009
 Recession brings rubber prices down, but buyers stay on the sidelines - 6/30/2009
 Tokyo rubber futures hit skids, pose Shanghai dilemma - 6/30/2009
 Partners Put on Hold Deals with Thai Firms - 12/2/2008
 Tokyo Rubber Ends Down 9.7 Pct, Pressured By Weak Oil - 12/2/2008
 TOCOM Rubber Up 2.8 Pct As Oil Prices Rebound (07Nov2008) - 11/7/2008
 Asia Rubber-Thai Unrest Disrupts Transport - 9/9/2008
 Gustav Expected to Regain Hurricane Status; Gasoline Inventories Down Again - 8/27/2008
 Oil prices jump as Gustav threatens - 8/27/2008
 Sinochem To Buy 51% of Singaporean Rubber Firm GMG Global - 8/14/2008
 Bio-Fuels, Natural Rubber And The World Food Supply - 8/14/2008
 Ghana: Relations With China - Into the Claws of Another Predator? - 7/30/2008
 Vytex(TM) Natural Rubber Latex Manufacturing Test Results Get International Latex Conference Buzzing - 7/30/2008
 Natural Rubber Price Hits New High - 5/8/2008
 Double the rubber to make Mardec worldís No 1 - 11/27/2007
 Mardec To Invest RM20 Mln To Turn Out Compounded Rubber - 11/27/2007
 City on Tire Recycling: Show Us Cash - 10/1/2007
 Synthetic Rubber Punctures Dreams of Growers - 10/1/2007
 Bananas, Cocoa Mix With Tires in New Farming Approach - 10/1/2007
 Tripura, New Land of Indian Latex? - 10/1/2007
 Research: Engineering New Domestic Sources of Natural Rubber - 9/20/2007
 US:Yulex Hopes To Double Rubber Content From The Genetically-Enhanced Desert Plant - 9/10/2007
 Vietnam Rubber Exports Down in First 7 Months - 8/13/2007
 Japanese Yokohama Builds Business BRIC-by-BRIC - 8/13/2007
 Vietnamese Firms Started Rubber Cultivation in Cambodia - 8/13/2007
 S. Africa: Tyre And Rubber Strike Is Nearing Its End - 8/13/2007
 USA: Michelin North America to Acquire Oliver Rubber Company - 8/7/2007
 USA: Latexco To Open Latex Manufacturing Plant in Lavonia, GA - 8/1/2007
 Kumho Unveils Rubber Plant in Vietnam - 8/1/2007
 USA: Englander New Owners To Bring It Abroad - 8/1/2007
 23Apr2007 Vietnam PM Asks for Further Rubber Sector Development - 7/9/2007