Rubber plantations in Southeast Asia weather tsunami

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Many of the rubber plantations in Southeast Asia appear to have weathered the effects of the tragic earthquake and tsunami that recently hit the area. Their locations -- away from the coastal areas and in the highlands -- protected them.

In a Dow Jones news report, rubber exporters from Thailand and Indonesia said the tidal waves didn´t destroy any rubber plantations.

Thailand and Indonesia are the world´s first- and second-largest producers of natural rubber. They are two of the countries that were affected most by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, along with Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma and Bangladesh.

However, while the plantations have remained intact, exporting the rubber will be slowed down in some cases because of damage to the infrastructure of the countries hit hardest.

One chemical supplier told that he expected damage to ports in Southeast Asia to affect natural rubber supply to the rest of the world.

A Times News article reported that rubber shipments from Sumatra in Indonesia are on schedule despite the natural disaster. "Shipments from the key export port of Belawan in North Sumatra province were not affected."

The Times report quoted Suharto Honggokusumo, executive director of the Indonesian Rubber Association, as saying that "except for those in Aceh, there are no ports which have been affected by the tsunami. And Aceh hasn’t produced rubber for such a long time."

In late November, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. entered into an agreement in principle to sell its 95% stake in Goodyear Sumatra Plantations (GSP) to Bridgestone Corp.

At the time, Goodyear, one of the largest users of natural rubber in the world, said the transaction would not impact its ability to acquire natural rubber for its operations. GSP, which began operations in 1917, is one of the largest natural rubber estates in North Sumatra.

Natural rubber prices rose 24% in 2004 versus 2003.

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