Fungal disease outbreak threatens Thailand’s rubber plantations

Thailand is facing an outbreak of fungal disease Pestalotiopsis, recently found in three districts in a key rubber growing province in southern Thailand – affected rubber trees have been identified in a large enough area that could potentially decrease the country’s output of rubber.

The disease has previously afflicted rubber plantations in neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, and could result in losses in over 16,000 hectares of rubber plantations. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia account for some 70% of the world’s rubber supply.

According to the Rubber Authority of Thailand (RAOT), Pestalotiopsis causes leaves to turn a mottled yellow, spreads quickly and severely compromises a rubber tree’s ability to produce latex. Indonesia has already revised its natural rubber production due to the outbreak and expects output to drop by 15%.

Meanwhile, Uthai Sonlucksub, President of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand, said rubber farmers in the affected districts were “very worried” about the loss of output amid falling rubber prices, which would eventually affect their meagre income.