Vietnam, third largest rubber exporter, imports $1 billion of synthetic rubber yearly

Vietnam takes pride as one of the world’s biggest natural rubber exporter, but it still has to spend nearly $1 billion a year to import mostly synthetic rubber products to satisfy domestic production.

Vietnam is a big natural rubber exporter

A report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) showed that in November alone, Vietnam imported 46,000 tons of rubber materials, raising the total import volume in the first 11 months to 543,000 tons, worth $1 billion, an increase of 8.8 percent in volume and 1 percent in value compared with the same period last year.

The Vietnam Rubber Association admitted that though Vietnam ranks third in the world in natural rubber production and export with the output of over 1 million tons, it still has to import rubber.

It is estimated that only 20 percent of domestic rubber output is provided to domestic manufacturers.

Domestic sources cannot provide SVR20 and RSS3, the rubber products tyre manufacturers need. They have SVL3L in abundance, but the demand is limited. Household-use appliance and footwear producers also have to import rubber materials because domestically made rubber is unsuitable.

Nguyen Ngoc Lung from the Institute for Sustainable Forest Management and Forest Certification said manufacturers can make some kinds of products with domestic rubber, but cannot make other products with the same rubber materials at reasonable costs.

To organize large-scale production, enterprises have to spend big money to import technologies, machines and equipment. Since enterprises remain unable to import expensive technologies, it is better to import suitable materials.

Nguyen Viet Bac from the Institute of Materials Chemistry and Do Quang Khang from the Institute of Chemistry both explained that Vietnam needs to import rubber because it does not have synthetic rubber.

Khang denied that the quality of Vietnam’s rubber is low, which cannot satisfy requirements, stressing that rubber products Vietnam imports are synthetic rubber, not natural rubber. The former is the material that Vietnamese manufacturers use.

Vietnam, if it wants to make synthetic rubber, needs to have a developed petrochemistry industry. On average, Vietnam needs about 200,000 tons of synthetic rubber a year, a modest consumption level.

Vietnam is a big rice exporter in the world, but it still imports Thai and Japanese rice to sell to high income earners. In the paper industry, some Vietnam’s enterprises can make high-quality products for export to the US, but their products for cement bags are not good.