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Director General's Message

Director General's Message

We have passed the year 2018 with challenges in the country’s economy in general and the rubber industry, in particular. The discouraging performance of the world economy has led to a continuous fall in rubber prices. This condition was influenced by the bearish sentiment in the natural rubber market, most of which was dominated by non-fundamental market factors, especially the ongoing USA – China trade war. As a trade country depending on the international market for its exports and imports, such development has a direct impact on us. However, despite lots of challenges faced throughout the year, I am happy that the MRB has been able to address them. Various efforts and initiatives have been implemented to maintain the competitiveness and resilience of the country’s rubber industry in order to enable us to compete internationally.

The Rubber Market

In spite of an uncertain and sluggish world economy, the country’s rubber exports in 2018 managed to record an increase of 6.7% or RM63.09 billion to RM 988.01 billion compared to RM 935.39 billion in 2017. The rubber products sector was the largest contributor accounting for 58.9 per cent. Rubber consumption in 2018 increased by 5.4% to 986,043 tonnes from 935,611 tonnes in 2017. From the said figure, the consumption of natural and synthetic rubbers increased by 5.5% to 515,603 tonnes and by 5.3% to 470,440 tonnes, respectively. The increase in natural rubber was attributed to the increase in other rubber grades and latex by 13.1% and 6.4%, respectively.

Government Aid for Rubber Smallholders

Rubber smallholders are the most affected by the slump in natural rubber prices. The government implemented several incentives over the course of the past year to address this concern. These include the implementation of the Rubber Production Incentives (IPG) to alleviate the financial burden of smallholders as a result of the decline in rubber prices. Apart from this, the incentives would encourage the smallholders to continue producing rubber. The government also continued with the implementation of Monsoon Season Aid (BMT) for a second consecutive year to take care of the smallholders’ well-being during the rainy season.

Research and Development

The MRB carries out focused and priority research and development (R&D) activities on projects that could increase rubber productivity, domestic rubber consumption, mechanisation and automation, crepe rubber programme, the commercialisation of Ekoprena® and Pureprena® as well as standards and compliance. Research outputs have been forwarded to the industry players through collaborations, development and commercialisation efforts, publications, consultancy and testing services. The MRB has participated in various seminars and conventions to promote and transfer its research outputs. These R&D activities are in line with the national agenda under the National Commodity Policy 2011 – 2020, the objectives of which are to strengthen research, development and commercialiasation for the enhancement of rubber industry’s competitiveness and to make the MRB the centre of excellence for rubber research.

The upstream research focuses on efforts to maximise the outputs through continuous enhancement to latex stimulants and latex tapping or harvesting. The attention to these efforts must be made owing to the decreasing size of rubber estates, lack of manpower in the estates and increase in Hevea disease attacks. Among the significant achievements are conclusive findings on the increase in outputs, coupled with the decrease in occurence of tapping panel dryness (TPD) on RRIM 3001 clone through the application of RRIM HYDROBEST latex stimulant.

With regards to research pertaining to Hevea leaves disease, a genomic approach is also applied to support the classic approach in identifying Pestalotiopsis sp., the main fungal patogen that attacks Hevea trees in estates nationwide. Additionally, an online database on Hevea diseases has been developed for dissemination of information to planters and other interested parties on diseases related to Hevea trees in Malaysia. Meanwhile, transgenic research was resumed with verification of the transgent’s stability on genetically-modified Hevea trees at the limited testing field. In addition, a laboratory-scale research on the potential of unused wood biomass from Hevea trees to be made as a source of bio-etanol is also in progress. This research serves as the basis for converting increasing unused wood biomass into etanol, a high-value product. Other areas of core research include breeding and selection of improved Hevea clones, molecular analysis on tree biology, agronomical practices, latex harvesting technology, mechanisation and automation.

Rubber Research
Producing Rubber

Downstream research in 2018 focused on some key areas, particularly those crucial to national policies and industries’ needs. Projects under the 11th Malaysian Plan (RMK11) have enabled large scale works on cuplump modified bitumen (CMB) for Malaysian roads. Alternative methods in producing CMB were explored including research on Marshall stability on cuplump modified asphalt, comparison on CMA concrete in the MRB’s rubberised road project and CMB mixing fabrication in the laboratory. Besides this, the RMK11 also facilitated large scale pilot studies in gloves and condom factories, specifically on nanomaterial based products, energy efficiency usage and waste water recycling system towards advanced products and sustainable technologies for the industry. Industrial demand for new and improved raw materials led to research on specialty rubber materials (Ekoprena® and Pureprena®) as well as optimised production and processing techniques to capitalise and diverse the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources.

Specialty rubbers i.e. Ekoprena® and Pureprena® were further transformed in the form of liquid NR (LNR) and liquid epoxidised NR (LENR) to broaden their usage, with successful process optimisation and scaled-up production. Thinner NR latex films via novel chemical crosslinks and modification of NR backbones were made to support the industry’s call for greater competitive edge in NR latex gloves and to abate the Type IV rubber chemicals allergy issues. Other notable products were the bio-based NR latex composites for paints (outdoor, indoor and artwork) and adhesives (wallpaper and stationery). These products were attested by benchmarking with commercial products, scale-up factories production and large scale on-site testing. MRB’s activities of technology transfer through exhibitions, road shows and retail online marketing were held to support the SMEs in promoting their new products as green, sustainable, safe and environmentally friendly. Another notable achievement was the development of a compound for green tyre treads using specialty rubbers and silica fillers, attested with performance road trials on Ekoprena® tyres in container trucks, tankers and passenger cars. Ekoprena® based formulation was developed for window rubber seals with improved air permeability and oil resistance. Collaboration with a local industrial partner for pre-commercialisation of Ekoprena® based antistatic footwear to produce them in trial commercial scale, targeted to meet commercial and standard requirements as well as economic feasibility was initiated successfully.

It is also worthy to mention the development of soil filling machine and application of RFID/GMD technology in managing immature/mature rubber tree plantation, both of which were collaboration with the upstream sector. Work also continued in development of the effluent treatment plant (ETP) at the Integrated Rubber Processing Complex (IPC) in Kota Tinggi, Johor which after completion, received its approval notice from the Department of Environment (DOE) on 14 August 2018 to commence operation. Equipped with modern facilities for high efficient treatment system, the ETP designed by the MRB has the capacity to treat 350m3/day of raw effluent, complying with DOE discharge standards. The treated effluent received from several processing centres in IPC is subsequently channelled back to the processing centres as recycled water for washing purposes.

The MRB has consistently organised interactive sessions with Malaysian rubber industry players to identify R&D activities need to be carried out and re-assess based on the industry’s present needs. At the international level, the MRB organised conventions, dialogues, technical workshops and the like through various platforms including IRRDB, IRGCE, IRC, ITRC, ANRPC, TC45, TC157, ACCSQ, Economic Mission, etc., which are related to the rubber industry. The MRB also organised and participated in more than 40 seminars, exhibitions, workshops and conventions at the national level throughout 2018, with the purpose of transferring the technology and disseminating information to the rubber industry players and other interested parties.

A number of awards were received through innovations such as gold medals for Cuplump Modified Bitumen - Malaysia’s New Rubberised Road at the Malaysian Road Convention -Invention & Innovation Exhibition, RRIMFoam for Healthcare and Therapeutic Foam Product at the International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition 2018 (ITEX 2018) and Performance of Cuplump Modified Bitumen (CMB) in Road Building at ITEX 2018 as well as an Indonesian Special Award on Innovation and Promotion.

The MRB has also celebrated the recipients of the Scientific Achievement Award as a recognition to its researchers who has successfully contributed intellectual properties in their respective innovations in the previous year. The award encourages researchers to contribute towards the development of the country’s rubber industry. This is in-line with the MRB’s aspiration to produce research products and technologies that are viable and beneficial to all parties. The production of high value-added product innovation would contribute to economic transformation towards a high-income country. Natural rubber is a green source that Malaysia is proud of, hence, its usage is in-line with instilling awareness on green technology. Although the aspect of the country’s economic growth acceleration and sustainable development are primary concerns, the next generation’s quality of life has never been neglected. In relation to this, in 2018, the MRB filed a number of new intellectual properties i.e. a patent (Composition and Method for Producing Epoxidized Natural Rubber Latex Foam and Applications Thereof), a trade mark (RRIM PRI CUTTM) and seven trade secrets. All these innovations have the potential for commercialisation where their usage shall be extended to the industry players who are interested to license such technologies.

Before summing up, I wish to express my utmost thanks to YB Puan Teresa Kok for supporting the activities of the MRB. I record my heartiest appreciation to all members of the MRB Board of Directors for their guidance and efforts to enhance the performance and image of the MRB. The steadfast support and cooperation by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and all related agencies are most valued. Last but not least, thanks to the MRB Top Management and workforce for delivering their commitment and service optimally. Let us hope that they will continue to serve in the best of their capacity towards a brighter future of the organisation and the country’s rubber industry.

Dato’ Dr. Zairossani Mohd. Nor
Director General
Malaysian Rubber Board

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