Once, Sri Lanka was the cradles for the rubber industry, that revolutionised many industries across the globe, when a few hundred Brazillian rubber seeds received from the Kew Garden in London were planted in the Henarathgoda Botanical Garden in Gampaha in 1867. By 1900 a large extent of land in wet zone Sri Lanka was under rubber cultivation and by 1970s Sri Lanka had over 200,000 hectares of rubber plantations.
Today the country is the 13th largest rubber producer in the world. There are about 136,625 hectares of rubber plantations in Sri Lanka and the industry employs a total of 200,000 individuals with more women employed at a grassroots level. Sri Lankan rubber and rubber-based product sector enjoys key competitive advantages including;
Currently, Sri Lanka is the main manufacturer of the best quality latex crepe rubber in the world and also the largest exporter latex crepe to the global market. Latex Crepe made in Sri Lanka is the highest quality natural rubber and considered the creme de la creme of rubber, fetching a premium price over all other types and grades.
The country’s premium quality natural rubber type known as Lankaprene is odour free to the most extent, light-coloured, and clean is largely used for medical equipment and upmarket value-added products.
Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of industrial solid tires and the fifth largest exporter of latex gloves to the world. The availability of high quality ribbed smoked sheet rubber (RSS Rubber) and the country’s accumulated expertise and experience have made Sri Lanka the global hub for solid tyres and almost all the leading brands in the global solid tyre industry have invested in local production capabilities.
Moreover, the availability of superior latex crepe in Sri Lanka has given rise to a developing rubber gloves industry in the country. Offering greater strength, dexterity, sensitivity and protection against a wider range of pathogens, natural rubber latex gloves made in Sri Lanka are widely used for medical, industrial and household purposes around the world.
As a signatory for International Labour Organisation treaties Sri Lankan rubber industry stakeholders complies with global labour standards and ethical practices. Sri Lankan rubber industry is free of child labour and is one of the main income sources for Sri Lankan rural women. The rubber industry is unique in terms of environmental sustainability. Large tracts of rubber farms extending over 130,000 ha in the country provide man-made renewable forests having an apparent improvement in the microclimate in the respective regions.
In addition, the country’s stringent environmental regulations ensure that rubber farming, processing and manufacturing of rubber products comply with local environmental laws and are sustainable in nature, preventing any negative effect the industry would have on the country’s environment and ecosystem.
Sri Lanka also introduced common standardisation and traceability requirements in the local rubber supply chain involving all external and internal stakeholders to increase transparency and sustainability within the industry.
Sri Lankan rubber suppliers, as well as buyers, enjoy a range of concessions through free trade agreements such as the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement ( ISFTA), Pakistan - Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSFTA), The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and GSP schemes offered by EU, Canada, New Zealand and Turkey.