According to Perera, Sri Lanka started manufacturing rubber products locally in 1950s but added that the industry thrived in 1980s with the open economy.
“Earlier we used only 20% of the total harvest locally and the rest 80% were exported as raw rubber. This 20% was used to manufacture tyres and for the retreading companies,” said Perera.
Although 80% of the total latex harvest was exported initially, according to Perera at present only 20% is exported and the rest is used to manufacture rubber products locally.
“Currently we export 20% and 80% is used locally to make value-added products for the local and export market. This is a big income for us comparing to raw rubber exportation as the value addition is very low when exporting raw rubber,” said Perera.
According to Perera, Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of industrial solid tyres and pneumatic tyres to the world market.
“We manufacture and export 35% of industrial solid tyres and pneumatic tyres to the world market. In addition we also manufacture and export 4-6% of surgical and examination gloves from latex rubber,” Perera added.
He further said that in 2011 the country’s rubber industry’s export earning was one billion US Dollars which is one sixth of the country’s total export earnings. However he said this figure dropped by a slight margin in 2012 due to the world recession.
“Since the demand stopped our earning too dropped slightly in 2012,” he added.
When asked as to how many employees are there in the rubber industry, Perera said that there are about 40, 000 workers in the manufacturing sector while there are around 150, 000 to 200, 000 labourers in the plantation sector.
When asked the effect to the environment from the rubber industry is, Perera said that there are many environmental issues in the latex industry but not much in the dry rubber industry.
“In the dry rubber industry, only dust, smoke and gas emit from their manufacturing plants but it is different to that of the latex industry where there are many concerned issues. Since I am not very familiar with the latex industry I am not quite sure what the exact environmental impact is from latex industry but know for certain there are issues concerning the environment,” he said.
However Perera said that although there is an environmental impact from the rubber manufacturing industry, the rubber plantation is environment friendly and is a good solution to the global warming issue.
“A rubber plantation acts as a forest cover and trap carbon from the environment. This plantation is a solution to the global warming issue. It is disappointing to note how rubber plantations are destroyed for real estate purposes,” he said.
According to Perera Sri Lanka imports rubber for the manufacturing industry as the country has lost several thousand acres of rubber lands in the recent past.
“The government is experimenting whether rubber can be planted in Killinochchi, Moneragala and Padiyathalawa. Even the existing weather pattern too has severely affected the industry. Too much of rain and drought has declined the harvest,” he said.