Malaysian rubber tappers unhappy at government’s lack of aid

tapperOtai Reformis wants Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok and her deputy Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin removed from their positions after the seeming inaction in helping rubber tappers through the dip in the price of the commodity.

“Otai is disappointed that the government does not have a rescue package,” said a representative of the political activist group. “Otai believes that the minister and her deputy are incompetent in handling the rubber price drop.”

An Otai committee member, Abdul Razak, said the group wanted leaders who were more “people friendly” and in tune with the community’s needs and hardships

Yesterday, scrap rubber closed at RM1.84 per kg in the peninsula, RM1.68 in Sarawak, and RM1.54 in Sabah.

Rubber tappers said the price for scrap rubber has been hovering around RM1.80 to RM2.00 of late, which they say is the lowest in recent years.

“The price of rubber tree seeds is more expensive at RM2.20 per kg,” said tapper Mohd Fauzi Ismail

However, the government does have a floor price mechanism that kicks in when farm-gate prices for scrap rubber falls below RM2.20.

“The price difference for smallholders will be borne by the government.

“This will enable smallholders with an average of two hectares and cup lump productivity of 3,000 kg per hectare per year to enjoy a monthly income of RM1,100,” the ministry was quoted as saying by The Star.

The ministry, however, initially rejected calls to increase the floor price to RM4 as proposed by some, saying this would require an additional allocation of RM2.5 billion. Setting a high floor price could also potentially lead to speculative activities by those seeking to capitalise on the price difference, as well as encourage rubber smuggling from abroad.

However, soon after Kok was reporteds saying that the government would be studying to see if the floor price should remain at RM2.20 or be increased.

Meanwhile, Otai Reformis proposed that the government start buying up rubber from smallholders to build a buffer stock, which it can the sell to the market once prices have improved.