Rubber harvesting system to increase local production

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The Myanmar Times 30 October - 5 November 2006

A RUBBER harvesting system first developed in Malaysia in the 1990s is being introduced to Myanmar for the first time by two local companies.

The system, called Rrimflow, uses ethylene gas to stimulate trees into producing more rubber oil.

The two companies, Paing and Paing Co Ltd and Green Future Co Ltd, jointly sponsored a promotional show last month at Sedona Hotel in Yangon to publicise the system.

U Shane Htan, manager of Myanma Perennial Crop Enterprise (MPCE), said the new technique fits perfectly into the government’s efforts to increase Myanmar’s rubber production, as the world demand for rubber is currently strong.

“This new harvesting technique has been proven to increase rubber production by three times above normal. And the world’s rubber price and demand have been rising. The new technique will satisfy the world’s hunger for rubber in time,” he said.

The Rrimflow technique involves piping ethylene gas from a tank placed at the base of each rubber tree, through a hose to an applicator, which allows the tree’s bark to absorb the gas directly.

It has already been tested successfully at rubber plantations in Mudon township in Mon State and Indagaw township in Bago Division in cooperation with the two companies and MPCE, said Daw Sandar Lwin, director of Green Future Co Ltd.

“The gas won’t affect the quality of the rubber, the tree or the natural environment,” she said.

While using the system, farmers need to refill the gas tanks every 10 days. A steady supply of gas is therefore essential, she said.

“We are now arranging to secure an ethylene supply to avoid a shortage of gas as well as all other tools in order to be prepared when more growers begin to demand the system. We plan to provide all tools, the gas and technical services in a package,” she said.

Although the system’s initial costs can be large, depending on the size and location of the plantation, Daw Sandar Lwin said the subsequent increase in rubber production will allow farmers to recoup their investment within two months.

An additional advantage of the system is that it reduces the number of days that farmers need to hire labourers by about two-thirds – from every day to only about nine days a month. Labourers, meanwhile, can harvest more trees in a day, thereby increasing their own incomes.

Rubber trees are harvestable between the ages of seven and 30 years but produce their highest yield between 12 and 15 years. The Rrimflow system must be used only on trees 12 years and older.

Currently, Myanmar produces 50,000 tonnes of rubber a year from 250,000 harvestable acres, while the country’s total acreage is more than 500,000.