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Without National Standards, Global Rubber Faces EUDR Crisis

More than 70% of rubber supplies the world's tyre industry but without national standards, and mandatory compliance the industry faces challenges in meeting the EU Deforestation Regulations.


Mon 15 Jan 24

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Global rubber producers are turning to forest certification to “EUDR-proof” supply chains – a massive undertaking given that 6 million “smallholders” are responsible for farming rubber trees worldwide.

However, without national standards and governments mandating compliance to these standards, producers stand little chance of “closing loops in global supply chains”, with just 1.8% of rubber cultivated in Thailand meeting FSC standards.

The challenge facing the rubber industry is to reward smallholders who commit to forest certification and ensure the total supply chain for rubber products carries a chain of custody.

Instead, Wood Central understands that the low levels of certification result from a disagreement between global buyers and sellers (the farmers) about the quantity and price of rubber products.

That is, according to an urgent letter sent by the Rubber Council of Thailand, which is pushing for a Thai government mandate that all rubber plantations (about 22 million Rai or 3.52 million hectares) meet Thailand’s standard for forest plantation management (TIS 14061).

As the world’s largest producer of natural rubber, Thailand supplied almost 40 per cent of global rubber stocks in 2021 – footage courtesy of @AFP.

Now, the Rubber Council of Thailand wants “all rubber in the country to meet the standard within three years,” with the target to be funded by the Rubber Development Fund under the Rubber Authority of Thailand Act, B.E. 2558 (2015) and the Thai federal budget.

The goal, it said, “is for every plantation in Thailand to meet TIS Standard 14061” under an accelerated timeframe, bringing forward compliance to align with the new EUDR requirements.

Thailand is one of the world’s largest rubber producers and exporters, with an export value of 40 billion USD in 2019 alone – and with more than 11.45% of exports entering EU markets, the stakes are enormous.

To meet the requirements of EUDR, which will come into effect on December 30, 2024, rubber producers must confirm that all imported products “are not sourced from deforestation and have a traceable and verifiable Chain of Custody.”

Rubber, with its abundant number of smallholders, is one of the industries most impacted by the new EUDR – footage courtesy of @LiveEO_space.

Because Thai rubber plantations are primarily small-scale, “it is more challenging for them to meet the international FSC standards compared to large, privately owned plantations.”

Instead, TIS 14061 “aims to improve and develop methods for rubber plantation that are consistent with the standards for sustainable economic wood plantation management,” which “meets international standards and are accepted by PEFC in international markets.”

Already, a cooperative of 225 rubber smallholders managing more than 1000 hectares of rubber trees is using the Thai national standard to sell PEFC-certified latex rubber into global markets via Wang Sai Ltd – representing the first PEFC-certified latex order from Thailand.

According to a source connected to the cooperative, this latest commitment “highlights the readiness of Thai smallholders to join the global sustainable latex supply chain,” with the achievement the result of a “long-term project known as the “Sustainable Rubber Plantation According to PEFC International Standard.”

PEFC International and FSC International are now working with smallholders and buyers to close loops and get more farmers who cultivate rubber certified – footage courtesy of @pefcinternational.

“Rubber grower cooperatives are a robust institutional platform for farmers in Thailand,” the source said, and “with more than 400 active cooperatives, rubber farmers join together to gather natural latex, harvest rubber timber, and transport it to factories.”

The market for natural rubber is enormous, with US-based Yulex LLC working with multinational brands, including Decathlon, Patagonia, and Wallien, to create deforestation-free supply chains. 

Yulex has proprietary technology and patents for natural rubber products, replacing equivalent petroleum-based products, which Wood Central understands could dramatically increase the number of PEFC-certified natural rubber products entering global supply chains.

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Last year, a new study looked at the level of regional deforestation in areas where rubber is cultivated. The research looked at Rubber distribution in 2021 and associated deforestation. (Photo Credit: Nature)

The push to certify natural rubber comes after a groundbreaking study published in October 2023 reported that deforestation for rubber cultivation was “substantially underestimated” and could be three times higher than assumed.

The report, which is pushing for greater focus by governments to look at natural rubber as “the primary driver of deforestation” in Southeast Asia, reported that the EU “was substantially exposed” leading up to the introduction of the EUDR.

Over 90% of rubber cultivation occurs in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, with more than 70% of rubber produced supplied to the auto industries.

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Last year, Formula 1 signed an agreement with Pirelli, which will see all tyres used on the grid using certified rubber that meets the requirements of forest certification. Here, Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1, and Mohammed bin Sulayem, President of FIA, are on the grid after the announcement in October 2023. (Photo Credit: Autosport.com)

Last year, Wood Central reported that all Formula 1 cars will use “certified tyres” on the grid starting this year.

In recent years, FSC and PEFC have both increased rubber plantation certification with new plantations established in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Guatemala, whilst certified rubber is increasing in Vietnam, China and Colombia.

Author

  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.

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