On March 21 and 22, 2018, the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD), alongside the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Care International, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association (MRPPA), hosted the Myanmar Rubber Forum 2018 in Nay Pyi Taw. This year’s theme, “Sustainable Rubber Value Chain Development,” brought together international, government, private and local stakeholders to provide inputs on how to assess, target and develop Myanmar’s rubber sector. Distinguished guests including H.E. Vice President U Myint Swe, H.E. U Aung Thu, Union Minister of MOALI, U Ye Tint Tun, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, U Yu Sein, Chairman of The Rubber Producers and PA, Dr. Christy Williams, Country Director of the World Wildlife Fund, and Dr. Zaw Oo, Executive Director of CESD opened the forum with their inputs and views of Myanmar’s rubber industry.

The forum began with a historical overview of Myanmar’s rubber sector was also provided. Rubber was first grown in Myanmar during the colonial occupation and quickly grew into a significant contributor to Myanmar’s exports. Today, the sector is the second largest contributor to Myanmar’s foreign currency reserves and employs tens of thousands of persons in large rubber producing areas such as Kayin, Mon and Tanintharyi. Dr. Ye Tint Tun, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, highlighted the importance of rubber in these states, explaining 60% of locals in Tanintharyi depend on the rubber industry for employment.

Stakeholders widely discussed the importance of improving the quality of rubber in Myanmar. As the majority of Myanmar’s rubber production is of poor quality and is sold for below market price to China, increasing quality could not only drive farmers to charge higher prices but also broaden their target markets to other nations such as Japan and India. As 70% of rubber consumption is driven by the tire sector, which is largely dominated by 13 large international tire companies, unlocking access to these companies by producing higher quality rubber is another key to enriching Myanmar’s rubber sector.

While improving quality and yield is one critical aspect of the rubber sector in Myanmar, another was the establishment of environmental standards and guidelines to ensure environmental sustainability in Myanmar’s rubber sector. This standard could be fused with yield and quality optimization policies and packaged to producers. Stakeholders agreed that the international definition of environmental sustainability needed further clarity and development but a national concept could be formulated. Implementation on the local level would be the critical avenue to ensure the success of Myanmar’s rubber sector.

During the event, panel discussions covered critical focuses for Myanmar’s rubber sector. Discussions on improving rubber quality, improving marketing and research, increasing the development of sustainable rubber plantations and production, the empowerment of rubber smallholders, and development challenges in the rubber sector brought together the views and voices of the diverse stakeholders at the forum.