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Master plan, proposed Secretariat will rescue crisis-hit rubber industry: Minister

18 January 2016 02:53 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Lahiru Pothmulla 

The Rubber Master Plan to be initiated in March and the proposed Rubber Secretariat would not only salvage the industry which is currently facing many obstacles but would also make it prosperous, Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake noted.

Addressing the 30th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber Products (SLAMERP) on Thursday, the minister said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has given the green light to kick off the master plan and to establish the Rs.100-million Rubber Secretariat.

“We will use the expertise and the sources of the ministry to increase rubber production. An ambitious project was already launched in Moneragala for the revival of the industry. Under the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister, we have identified 10 key areas. We will obtain the input of the private sector to take the master plan forward,” he said. 

He said 10 committees would be established to address the issues in the identified key areas. “If we can do this, it will be a huge achievement for us,” he said.  

Commenting on rubber prices, the minister said that it was beyond his control and what he can do is to make effective policy decisions.
He said that his priority for the next couple of years, if he remained the Plantations Industries Minister, would be to make the industry profitable. 
“If I remained in this Ministry for at least next two, three years, I feel that we can do something effective to the industry. Ministers come and go these days. I had so many plans for the tourism sector but I was in that ministry for only six months. I hope I won’t act as plantations industries minister for only six months,” he said. 

He said many successful governments had neglected the industry but the current government had identified the significance of it and that it was already evident by the Rs. 1 billion allocated as subsidies for the industry. 

Meanwhile, the minister highlighted the importance of the rubber department to be more proactive and also to learn from the private sector. “Government institutions also need to be changed. More dynamic processes should come into places. The Board of Investment (BOI) should also change its game. Investors need prompt responses and action. They shouldn’t hang around for months,” he said. The minister went on to note the concept of promoting Sri Lanka as a Rubber Hub. To add value prior to export of products would also be seriously looked at in the coming years, he said. “There is resistance for this in the tea industry but the rubber industry seems more united than the tea industry,” he said. 



US$ 10 bn industry
Newly elected Chairman of SLAMERP, Prabhash Subasinghe said the Sri Lankan rubber industry has the potential to grow into a US$ 10 billion industry and it only needed clear export-driven sustainable polices to achieve this goal.

“In my opinion, the rubber industry can be expanded into US$ 10 billion worth industry due to its vast positional. We request the government to make sure that the manufacturers can export shortfall of their rubber products so that they can add value and maintain the capacities of their factories. What we want is clear export-driven sustainable policies in this endeavou                               r. That’s all we ask the government and leave the rest to the private sector,” he said. 

He said the rubber industry which is the third largest industry in Sri Lanka only contributes one percent of global production and that they don’t have any encouraging news as far as natural rubber production is concerned.   However, he said Sri Lanka dominates almost 60 percent of high quality solid industrial tyre production in the global market.  

Subasinghe said rubber production in neighboring countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam had increased between 10 to 25 percent recently and this development is a cause of serious concern for Sri Lanka.   

“Our rubber exports have been downward since 2011. We request Minister Dissanayake to pay attention to promote natural rubber production in Sri Lanka. We have the potential to become a natural polymer harbour and a centre of excellence for natural rubber. In order to gain hub status, we need to increase our exports and production, and Sri Lanka can become a global force in rubber,” he stressed.

 
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