New Rubber Study: Low Prices Drive Producers Into Poverty

Share Article

Based on a new study by Aidenvironment the Fair Rubber Association criticizes that low world market prices drive natural rubber producers into poverty and that serious violations of working rights as well as the inappropriate use of toxic chemicals are widespread. The study also describes options for responsible sourcing such as Fair Trade.

Rubber tapping involves a lot of manual labor, so workers depend on good working and environmental conditions © Martin Kunz, Fair Rubber Association

„I have met dozens of small farmers, who have stopped tapping rubber, because it does not pay anymore“ reports Martin Kunz, executive secretary of the Fair Rubber Association.

Low prices drive natural rubber producers into poverty and serious violations of working rights are common. This is the harsh reality revealed in a new study conducted by Aidenvironment. The comprehensive review of literature reveals numerous cases of inadequate safety standards, inappropriate use of toxic chemicals, discrimination and structurally long working hours and child labor. It points to the need for more responsible sourcing practices by the rubber industry with particular attention to fair trading conditions.

The world market prices for natural rubber fluctuate strongly. In recent years, they have fallen drastically. At current prices, many small-scale rubber producers and plantations cannot even cover their costs of production. This pushes smallholders into poverty and makes it difficult for producers to provide good working conditions for workers. Some plantations cut down rubber trees and shift to more profitable crops such as palm oil. This is bad news for the environment: As rubber trees sequester more carbon than most other tree crops, this shift reduces climate change mitigation. To combat negative sustainability impacts and capture potential opportunities, the report stresses how important it is to improve trading conditions, including the payment of a fair price for natural rubber.

The report makes it clear that the Fair Rubber Association’s combination of fairly trading conditions combined with high ecological standards can go a long way to providing a solution to many of the sustainability issues in the rubber industry. To start with, suppliers working with Fair Rubber are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and therefore have to ensure the respect of sound social and environmental practices as well as traceability. Secondly, supplier partners in South Asia receive a Fair Trade premium. This premium is used for projects to improve living and working conditions, including the construction of a training center, support for higher education, drinking water supply systems, and the first supplementary pension scheme for rubber tappers in the industry. Whatever the project: The primary rubber producers decided themselves – and continue to do so how the premium is to be spent.

"I have met dozens of small farmers, who have stopped tapping rubber, because it does not pay anymore," reports Martin Kunz, executive secretary of the Fair Rubber Association after a recent trip to Sri Lanka. "Of the plantations I visited, only those, which add some value by turning the latex into semi-processed raw materials, can survive. The current low prices for natural rubber are a disaster for the latex producers."

Natural rubber is used in many products, such as tires (the automotive industry accounts for 75% of the global consumption), gloves, shoe soles, balloons and condoms. The international demand for natural rubber has driven a steady expansion of industrial and smallholder plantations in the past decade. Today, Asia represents more than 90% of the total area under rubber cultivation and 80% of world production. The largest consumers of rubber are China, EU, USA, India and Japan.

For more information about the Fair Rubber Association, please click here.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

David Loew-Beer
Visit website