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The Biggest Rubber Producing Countries

Rubber is one of the greatest natural commodities in the world and its versatility makes it ideal for many different applications. The rubber industry manufactures numerous useful items, including rubber matting, auto tyres and tubes, vehicle parts, such as seals and timing belts, conveyor belts, footwear, cables and wires.

By far the most common use for rubber is to make tyres - around 70% of natural rubber is used for this purpose. As the oldest use for rubber, today, more than 20 million tyres are manufactured every year.

It's also used for hot water bottles, balloons, rubber bands, rubber flooring (particularly in gyms and kitchens) flexible hose and ducting products, rubber gloves and gaskets.

So, where exactly does all the rubber come from? Luckily, there's a plentiful supply in many parts of the world.


Rubber production

At the beginning of the 20th century, Brazil was still producing 99% of the world's supply of rubber. Today, Brazil produces less than 1% of rubber for the world market, with 80% of plantations now being based in Asia. After the first shipment was exported from Malaya in 1905, Brazil's role as a major producer declined, as rubber trees were grown in many other countries.

In order to grow rubber plants, the climate must be suitable to ensure optimum growth. The conditions need to be equatorial and the constant temperature must be around 28°C, with little seasonal variation - temperature is one of the most important factors in the growth of natural rubber.

The annual rainfall is also important - there needs to be between 60 and 78 inches of rainfall annually for rubber trees to thrive. Deep soil is needed to ensure surface rooting and the deep penetration of the roots. Other soil factors such as its ability to absorb moisture, drainage capabilities, its moisture-holding capacity and resistance to flooding also play their part.

Natural rubber is obtained from the milky white fluid of the plants, called latex. It is obtained through a process of "tapping" the plant. It’s a relatively slow process to tap a rubber tree, as it must be done in an environmentally friendly way so that the tree remains in good health for its average economic life of 32 years.

A skilled rubber tapper will remove a thin layer of bark from the tree trunk every night, using a spiralling, downward motion, with a container placed at the bottom to collect the liquid latex. The most effective tapping will yield the liquid for around five hours.

Once one side has been tapped, the opposite side is tapped, allowing the first side to heal again in readiness for the next session. The rubber is then processed in factories, converting it into a marketable form that can be stored and sold for many uses.


Who produces the most rubber?

The continent of Asia produces most of the world's natural rubber today. Out of 28 countries ranked for their rubber production, 12 of them are Asian.

Topping the list is Thailand, where rubber plantations cover 1.7 million hectares, yielding 17,710kg of rubber per hectare and providing 3.12 million metric tons per year. The majority of the plantations are in the southern part of the country. The monsoon climate is considered the most suitable for the sustained vegetative growth of rubber plants.

Second is Indonesia, where the rubber industry is boosted by its tropical and monsoon climate. It provides 2.54 million metric tons of rubber annually and rubber plantations cover 3.175 million hectares, but the yield of 8,000kg per hectare is relatively low.

The third-highest volume of rubber comes from Malaysia, where the bulk of the plantations are located in the western coastal areas, the humid piedmont zones at the foot of the mountains in the Malay Peninsula and also in the western zone of Kalimantan.

Malaysia is located near the equator, with a hot and humid climate all year round. The average temperature is 27°C throughout the year and the average rainfall is 250cm per annum.

The fourth-highest volume of rubber is produced in India. It was first grown there in 1880, in the Malabar and Travancore regions, with commercial plantations beginning in 1902. Kerala is India's most important and biggest rubber-producing state, accounting for 92% of all of the nation's acreage.

Other plantation areas include Tamal Nadu, Nicobar Islands, Karnataka and Assam. India produces 803,000 metric tons of rubber per annum and has 450,000 acres of plantations, with its tropical southern climate being ideal for growing rubber plants.

Vietnam is the fifth-largest rubber producer in the world, with the region around Ho Chi Minh City being vital to the nation's rubber cultivation. Rubber is one of Vietnam's major and most important exports to international markets. The country produces 550,000 metric tons per year and plantations cover 512,000 hectares.

The climate in the production region is tropical, with monsoon influences. It has plenty of sun, high rainfall and high humidity, making it ideal for rubber plantations.

Coruba supplies an extensive range of rubber products for various industries and applications. We are one of the UK's leading providers of high-quality rubber products and rubber matting and are fully supportive of rubber recycling initiatives to preserve the environment. Please give us a call on 01702 560194 or email info@coruba.co.uk with enquiries.

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