Published July 2014
Asia continues to dominate the world supply of natural rubber, with 93% of total world production in 2013. The three largest countries producing natural rubber in 2013 were Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Thailand has been the world’s largest producer of natural rubber since 1993, accounting for 34% of world production in 2013, with Indonesia accounting for 26%. Vietnam is the third-largest producer. Malaysia, which accounted for 32% of world production in 1988, has shifted its emphasis to other crops and nonagricultural investments and produced only 6.9% of the world total by 2013. Currently, there is a surplus of natural rubber in the world market, which has reduced prices drastically.
The shift toward radial tires, which use a higher percentage of natural rubber than bias-ply tires, has resulted in an increase in natural rubber consumption over the past 35 years. Natural rubber accounted for about 30% of total world consumption of rubber in 1981; the share increased to about 42% in 2013. Increased rubber consumption in the natural rubber–producing countries has also been a factor, as well as the greatly increasing demand for natural rubber in China and India. World consumption of natural rubber declined by 8% in 2009, as a result of the economic downturn, but quickly recovered in 2010. Growth since then has been about 1–2% per year, although there has been a slowdown in 2013–2014.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of natural rubber:
China continues to be the largest consumer of natural rubber in the world, accounting for 33% of the world consumption of natural rubber. China uses most of its natural rubber for tire manufacture.
Recent trends in world natural rubber production include the following:
- Growth in production exceeds growth in demand and a great surplus has emerged.
- Production is dominated by Southeast Asia and is primarily for export.
- Estates have switched away from natural rubber production to palm oil production, so natural rubber is now predominantly a smallholder crop.
- Production acreage has increased in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar) and West Africa.
- Thailand’s political crisis has affected the supply of natural rubber.
China continues to be the largest consumer of natural rubber in the world, accounting for nearly 37% of world consumption of natural rubber. China uses most (80%) of its natural rubber for tire manufacture.
Growth in natural rubber consumption will be highly uneven among the major regions of the world during 2013–2018. Developed regions (the United States, Western Europe and Japan) will grow at less than 1% per year, while developing regions in South America and Asia will grow at 3–5% per year. For 2013 through 2018, an average annual increase in global consumption of natural rubber of about 3.7% per year is forecast.