There’s hope for Cotabato’s rubber industry – Sec. Piñol

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 1 June) – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has assured farmers in North Cotabato that there’s hope for the rubber industry here despite the continued decline of the buying prices of the rubber’s raw materials in the locality.

Piñol is in North Cotabato for his “Biyaheng Bukid” program where he visited on Thursday the towns of M’lang and Midsayap.

During his meetings with the farmers in these areas, he introduced a new program for them called the “Easy Access Credit,” which would benefit poor peasants, including the rubber planters.

Piñol, in an interview over the Catholic-run Radyo Bida, said the continued drop of buying price of rubber cup lumps could be due to several factors, including the upward or downward trend of rubber prices in the international market.

The province is the leading rubber producer in South and Central Mindanao and second in Mindanao, according to data from the regional office of the Department of Agriculture. Yet the farmers have been complaining of the “sorry” buying price of rubber products.

In North Cotabato, a kilo of rubber cup lump ranges from P18 to P24.

Piñol suspects there is a monopoly or cartel controlling the local rubber industry.

“Commodities like rubber, onions, garlic, there’s a tendency these will be monopolized only by one group,” he said.

But Piñol said there’s hope for the rubber farmers.

He announced on Thursday that a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Philippine government and a company from Finland would be inked this September.

The MOA says the Finnish company, Black Donuts Engineering, Inc., will set up a $200-million tire factory in North Cotabato.

Piñol said the Finnish delegation had visited rubber plantations in the province last January.

“We’re dependent on the price of rubber in the international market. Unless we’re able to set up a local facility that would serve as direct market for our rubber products, we cannot control the price of rubber,” he said.

The secretary explained that once the tire factory would be set up in the province, rubber planters would become part owner or stakeholders of the corporation.

He said the downward trend in the buying prices of cup lumps is just “temporary.”

After five years, he said, the buying prices would slowly go up or continue its upward trend.

He also explained the buying prices of rubber cup lumps in the province have nothing to do with the variety of the rubber, stressing that these are of “good quality.” (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)