Thailand has 2nd largest rubber-tree cultivation areas in the world next to Indonesia. Today, we are still the biggest rubber producer in the world. Rubber-tree is economic plant that gives high return compared with other economic plants, and thus rubber industry is essential and affects economic overview of the nation. In 2010, the price of rubber was higher and it was a motivation for expanding rubber-tree cultivation area. At present, rubber products are oversupplied and although Thailand is a large rubber exporter of the world, we cannot resist impacts from trade measures of the large trading countries. Therefore, for many years, rubber-tree farmers are affected by the rubber price recession up to crisis.
Public sectors, private sectors as well as educational institutions thus cooperate to resolve the crisis of rubber by reducing reliance on rubber export with promotion of more domestic rubber consumption by processing and adding values more than just latex or rubber sheet. It is a guideline for promoting farmers to operate works this way continuously and sustainably by standardizing the products to be widely accepted among consumers for business feasibility. This counts on know-how about science, technology and business administration to help extension for local farmers.
In context of southern-border provinces, most rubber-tree farmers still sell fresh latex and smoked rubber sheet to local merchants, making farmers to be just a producer on upstream with no negotiating power and they must be under support of the government all along. In the situation when the rubber price declines, the government will provide urgent assistance to farmers by guaranteeing price. However, a sustainable way to solve these problems that can be done immediately is to study and find a guideline for reducing production cost, decreasing waste from the production process, examining and finding ways to use existing resources most worthwhile, gathering to exchange knowledge, create work, occupation and stability to the community. Experts from the government authorities, and personnel from educational institutions will be a mentor and advisor in transmitting knowledge properly.
The Department of Rubber and polymer Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Price of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, as an educational institution producing personnel specializing in rubber technology, realizes importance of taking part in helping the community and farmer group. They employ scientific and technological knowledge in producing and creating new rubber products for further extension for farmers, take care of readiness of farmers, add what is missing, give advice and do activities together. They start from a simple thing before developing and following up progress regularly until it is successful.
Tachi Rubber-tree Farmers and Rubber Products Group, tachi Sub-district, Yaha District, Yala Province was established since 2007, and encountered obstacles and problems until the group became stronger and was committed to uplift itself to be a producer of rubber products. From the farmer group to Tachi Latex Development and Processing Community Enterprise, at present, there are 170 members and they produce 7,000 kilograms of latex per day, and process it to be smoked rubber sheets. Furthermore, rubber scraps are processed to be various products such as cloth washing brush, keychain, football field rubber sheet and rubber sheet for people with disability. Every product is certified with industrial standard (TISI).
Products of Tachi rubber-tree farmer and rubber products group gain much attention from private sectors that make a contract for production of braille block for people with visual disability, which is registered as Thai innovation in 2019. It is know-how from a research study of researchers at Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus to promote and support community entrepreneurs to participate in producing and processing the product to meet industrial standards. As a result, the group members start having hope and being confident with development of their quality products.
The government’s policy in promoting production standard to add values to innovative rubber products to be universally competitive is an agenda of Thailand to determine our standpoint in ASEAN forum. Extension of product processing and business development in a form of community enterprise is the hope of sustainability in the future. Farmers need to gather to build up strengths and be a part of downstream which is to be a processing entrepreneur to get through the crisis of product price recession. Most importantly, whether the rubber price is high or low, farmers are the key of quality rubber production and as long as our products have quality, they are definitely needed in world marketplaces.