Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Rubber price down...
Although Oil palm has taken over as the primary product of the country, rubber is still the main source of income for many Felda settlers and rubber smallholders in Malaysia. They used to enjoy a very comfortable life when the price was pretty high, even for the untreated latex. When the price of rubber was at its peak, even government servants like policemen and teachers left their job to tap rubber.
the oldest scene in Malaysia
Now the price of rubber has dropped. As reported by Rosli Zakaria of the New Straits Times (October 7, Business Times p. B7:
"At the current price of less than RM2 per kg it is realistic enough to say that many of the 500,000 smallholders, now earn less than RM700 a north and they have fallen under the poverty line. (Malaysia's poverty line is pegged at RM763 a month.)
"The are rubber smallholders living in rural areas, who were onces the backbone of the Malaysia economy. There is no end in sight for their woes unless ways are found to increase the demand and use of natural rubber."
Many smallholders have hung up their rubber-tapping knives to earn money from other small business activities. With the monsoon around the corner there is no hope for a rise in rubber price until March next year. Even factories which used to bus raw latex are closing down and laying off workers.
source of income for men
That's as bleak a scenario as it can be when the country is striving to become a high income nation. The price of petrol has just been increased by 20 sen per litter and the prices of other consumer goods are expected to do the same as in previous case of price hikes for patrol, including the bus fares for school-going children. To top the spiralling prices is that of homes and shophouses which are fast approaching the million mark in the case of the former while the prices of the letter will certainly drive the bumiputeras back to the villages.
and women too
What is the government doing to jack up the price of rubber? We used to hear of efforts by the Ministry of Primary Industries and that of Domestic Trade and Consumerism in previous years to hold discussions with world authorities on rubber and palm oil prices, to keep the prices at a reasonable level to ensure sustained production. We hear nothing of such efforts now except to control the prices of essential consumer goods, which in many cases are not effective enough, and giving alms (the so-called BRIM) to those earning an income of less than RM3000 a month.
Are we going to keep beating our breasts to say that we are going to become a developed nation soon with millions of people still waiting for the next instalment of BRIM to help out with their insufficient income. Are we still proud to say that our export has increased by the billions when the national debts keep rising and the import bill is eating away at our increased productivity?
The rubber smallholders used to be the backbone of our economy.Is nothing to be done to keep them as such because the backbone is now based on commerce and trade which the rural population has no say in? What's going to happen to the half a million rubber smallholders?