UK aid, WWF to help Myan­mar de­velop ‘green’ rub­ber

The Myanmar Times - - Business - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­[email protected]­times.com

THE UK Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (DFID) and the World Wide Fund for Na­ture (WWF), have made a joint in­vest­ment of over US$2.4 mil­lion to catal­yse change in Myan­mar’s rub­ber pro­duc­tion, em­pha­sis­ing “green” (en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly) rub­ber.

The pro­ject, sup­ported by DFID­funded DaNa Fa­cil­ity and con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able rub­ber pro­duc­tion in Tanintharyi Re­gion. The scheme has a long-term goal that the re­gion, as part of the WWF ini­tia­tive, pro­vides a repli­ca­ble busi­ness model in sus­tain­able and trace­able rub­ber.

Tom Coward, Team Leader of the In­clu­sive Growth and Liveli­hoods Unit for DFID in Myan­mar, said dur­ing the launch that it is ex­cit­ing to see the “sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tive po­ten­tial” of pro­duc­ing rub­ber sus­tain­ably in the coun­try.

“With Myan­mar the sev­enth largest rub­ber pro­ducer in the world, this pro­ject has huge po­ten­tial to im­prove the liveli­hoods of poor farm­ers, while also pro­mot­ing the fea­si­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity of ‘zero de­for­esta­tion’ sus­tain­able rub­ber,” he re­marked.

The pro­ject will be im­ple­mented in part­ner­ship with Tanintharyi-based Dawei Golden Land Co (DGL), es­tab­lished in 2017 by the Tanintharyi Rub­ber Planters and Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (TRPPA). DGL is a proac­tive ac­tor in the sec­tor and is com­mit­ted to break the cy­cle of low qual­ity and low priced rub­ber, while TRPPA have in­vested over $1 mil­lion in build­ing a new rub­ber fac­tory that en­ables high­qual­ity rub­ber to be pro­duced at a scale at­trac­tive to pre­mium buy­ers.

In ad­di­tion, this UK and WWF­funded pro­ject will also sup­port the ex­port of zero de­for­esta­tion rub­ber pro­duced through di­rect links to sus­tain­able in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. This has enor­mous sig­nif­i­cance not just for Myan­mar but for the en­tire ASEAN re­gion.

Myan­mar is the world’s sev­enth largest pro­ducer of rub­ber and rub­ber is one of the coun­try’s big­gest ex­ports. Yet, the sec­tor is stuck in a cy­cle of low yields, poor pro­cess­ing, low qual­ity prod­ucts, and low pric­ing, mak­ing Myan­mar de­pen­dent on the cut-price mar­ket.

In 2015, UK re­searchers re­ported in Con­ser­va­tion Let­ters that the global de­mand for rub­ber tyres is threat­en­ing pro­tected forests in South­east Asia. The study found that by 2024, up to 8.5 mil­lion hectares of new rub­ber plan­ta­tions will be needed to meet the grow­ing de­mand. Rub­ber is one of the most rapidly ex­pand­ing tree crops within South­east Asia, with plan­ta­tions ex­pand­ing in var­i­ous coun­tries, in­clud­ing this coun­try.

Gau­rav Gupta, Pro­gramme Man­ager from WWF Myan­mar said that rub­ber pro­duc­tion in Myan­mar has led to de­for­esta­tion and dis­placed com­mu­ni­ties from their cus­tom­ary land.

“A shift to­wards sus­tain­able rub­ber pro­duc­tion will en­sure that there is no fur­ther de­for­esta­tion, no land grab­bing, and no hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” Mr Gupta com­mented.

The scheme con­sists of three main com­po­nents. It will first sup­port DGL in work­ing with their sup­pli­ers by set­ting up col­lec­tion cen­tres in nine vil­lages and train­ing small­hold­ers in sus­tain­able rub­ber agro­forestry sys­tems, in­clud­ing the re­quire­ments of zero de­for­esta­tion, and pur­chas­ing la­tex from the farm­ers to en­sure a fully trace­able and trans­par­ent pro­cesses.

The pro­ject will then sup­port DGL in de­vel­op­ing their rub­ber pro­cess­ing fac­tory to meet the sus­tain­abil­ity com­pli­ance re­quire­ments of in­ter­na­tional pre­mium buy­ers, ISO qual­ity stan­dards and to pro­duce the large vol­ume of con­sis­tent, high qual­ity rub­ber, needed for the busi­ness to at­tract the sus­tain­able buy­ers nec­es­sary to be­come com­mer­cially vi­able.

Fi­nally, it will sup­port DGL in mar­ket­ing their prod­ucts in­ter­na­tion­ally to at­tract pre­mium, sus­tain­able buy­ers. The pro­ject has al­ready se­cured ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from a Sin­ga­pore-based buyer and is con­duct­ing dis­cus­sions with pre­mium in­ter­na­tional tire pro­duc­ers.

250 small­holder pro­duc­ers will work with the pro­ject to in­crease their in­come by up to 30pc through train­ing in sus­tain­able rub­ber agro­forestry prac­tices. By sell­ing la­tex di­rectly to the fac­tory for pro­cess­ing, the aim is to help an ad­di­tional 2500 small­holder pro­duc­ers save around 50pc of their labour-pro­duc­tion time with no loss of in­come. The new sus­tain­able rub­ber fac­tory will also cre­ate an­other 250 new full-time jobs, 60pc of which will be for women.

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