It was during my first jungle 50km trail marathon that I discovered my first rubber plantation
It takes about six years for a rubber tree to grow to a point where it’s economical to harvest the sap, which is called latex. The sap from the rubber trees is processed into a wide range of products around the world, although the use of synthetic rubber has resulted in a decline in the natural rubber industry.
∴ Where does rubber come from?
Historically speaking, Brazil used to stand as the number one rubber tree producer. It is not the case anymore. This species was native to Brazil, northern Bolivia and eastern Peru. At one point the rubber trade brought in 40% of Brazil export revenue, all from wild trees. What about today?
Rubber is now harvested in Africa, Central and South America as well as Asia, the latter accounting for greater than 90% of the production.
In the early 20th century, the British in Malaysia and the Dutch in Indonesia cleared large areas of rainforest to create rubber plantations.
∴ A bit of history
Before 1945 the former Netherlands East Indies (nowadays Indonesia) was a colony of the Netherlands. It was in 1864 that the first rubber plant was introduced in Indonesia during the Dutch Colonization.
Peninsular Malaysia is among the world’s most important rubber growing areas. Rubber “pokok getah” is also grown in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Together the 14 states produce almost 20% of the world’s natural rubber
The first rubber tree in Thailand has been planted by a Thai-Chinese investor in 1899.
→ Sri Lanka
Beginning in the late 1970s, free trade zones were promoted in Sri Lanka as essential to economic development, and in support of the rubber plantation industry.
∴ What does organic mean?
Grown without chemicals, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic helps retain the health of our planet and its people by: providing safe work environments for cotton field workers, eliminating the use of damaging synthetic pesticides ensuring soil fertility is maintained and improved.
∴ Type of products?
Since teh 1950’s, as tire manufacturing becomes more automated, demand for synthetic rubber, which is highly processable and consistent, also increase.
- Tyres, tubes
- Hot water bottles
- Auto parts
- Industrial components
- Gloves, condoms, balloons
- Boots, shoe soles
- Jar seals
- Carpets, mattresses
∴ How natural rubber is made?
All natural rubber originates in the Hevea tree, and it begins its journey when the tree is tappped. Tapped?
to make a cut in the bark of the rubber tree
to harvest the latex.
- The bark is the outside layer that protect the tree, same as your skin protect your body from external attacks. It is about 6mm thick.
- The cambium is the “blood” of the tree: it is the part that makes the tree grow.
- The wood is in the center.
→ Some facts:
- When the cut is badly made touching the cambium, the bark closes up badly. It splits and turns brown.
- No tapping is made during dry season. Each tree are tapped early morning on a regular and fixed-time basis.
- After the tree no longer produces latex, it is harvested and its wood is turned into lumber