Dr Abd Latiff (third left) checks on the durian tree plant that he planted at Risda office, Kota Samarahan while (from left) Kota Samarahan MP Rubiah Wang, Risda chairman Datuk Mohd Salim Mohd Sharif and his deputy Datuk Henry Sum Agong look on. Photo: Ghazali Bujang

KUCHING: With Sarawak’s abundance in land, it makes sense for the state’s rubber industry to be expanded, said Rural Development Minister Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad.

He said while the ministry is happy with the developments made by Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) Sarawak, more could be done to further develop the industry and benefit the smallholders.

“If we look at the record of smallholders which are now close to 27,000 people in Sarawak involving more than RM200 million in allocations from 2009 to 2019 —even though we are happy, it can be expanded further.

“This is because there is a lot of land in Sarawak so we hope to gain the confidence of the state government for them to be committed in the industry to help the country reduce the dependency of imported latex,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Dr Abd Latiff said in Sarawak, the majority of rubber produced by smallholders is not only monitored by Risda but by other government agencies with the same objective.

“If we look at post Covid-19, the use of latex has increased as gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) apparatus are made from natural rubber, and we import latex from neighboring countries despite us being the number one medical glove producer in the world,” he said.

He said while higher demands for the products had seen a rise in downstream activities, the smallholders did not reap the benefit as the prices of Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) remained low, around RM1.70 to RM1.80 per kg.

“However, the government has a ceiling price where those who sell the products must keep a receipt so that they can claim the incentives. The ceiling price is set at RM2.50, anything below that will be subsidised by the government,” he said.