• What Countries Produce the Most Rubber?
    Before we can answer this article’s titular question, we have to start with a bit of clarification. There are two types of rubber, synthetic and natural, that differ greatly in terms of the production process. Synthetic rubber is oil-based, produced in a chemical factory, while natural rubber comes from trees grown in tropical climates.

    The U.S., China, Japan and several Western European countries lead the market in producing synthetic rubbers. However, this article will focus specifically on countries that produce high volumes of natural rubber, which comes from rubber trees. Now, let’s answer the question.

    What countries export rubber?

    There are 28 countries worldwide that produce natural rubber. The most distinct characteristic they share is a tropical climate. Tropical climates with consistent temperatures around 82℉ support healthy rubber trees. Rubber trees also thrive in deep soil with resistance to flooding and in areas where the annual rainfall remains between 60 and 78 inches. 

    Countries with this ideal equatorial climate that produce natural rubber are found primarily in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Rubber tree farms in these areas are reminiscent of maple tree farms in the Northeast U.S. where trees are grown in formation and tapped with spigots and buckets. But instead of maple syrup, rubber tree farmers tap latex, which is used to make raw natural rubber.
    Image credit britannica

    Approximately 85-90% of rubber tree farms are small businesses, often owned by families. These farmers process the latex into a powder, block, sheet or other form before shipping to rubber supply companies. 

    What countries produce the most rubber?

    Many countries produce and export natural rubber, but there are a handful of countries, specifically in Southeast Asia, that surpass all others. According to statistics released by the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC), three countries produce about 70% of the world’s current natural rubber supply, all of which are located in Southeast Asia. 

    For decades, Thailand has been the world’s biggest producer of rubber, growing 35% of the world’s natural rubber supply in 2019. The top ten countries that produced the most rubber in 2019 are as follows:
    1. Thailand
    2. Indonesia
    3. Vietnam
    4. India
    5. China
    6. Malaysia
    7. Philippines
    8. Guatemala
    9. Côte-d-Ivoire
    10. Myanmar
    This list has remained fairly stable for the past decade or so, but the rubber industry wasn’t always like this. For example, at the forefront of the 20th century, Brazil became the first nation to grow rubber trees commercially, producing almost all the world’s rubber - around 99%. Today, it produces less than 1% of the world’s natural rubber.

    Know your rubber supply chain

    While some desert states and greenhouses have successfully grown rubber trees, the United States does not have the proper natural climate for rubber trees to thrive. This means rubber molding companies and distributors are required to import natural rubber from high-producing countries like Thailand and Indonesia.

    Rubber-producing countries have their fair share of supply chain disruptions. For example in 2019 a typhoon named Storm Pabuk caused hundreds of millions in damages and led to a temporary closure of all docks in Thailand. More recently, COVID-related shutdowns have caused pauses and blips in the supply chain that have impacted rubber business lead times and customer service in the U.S.

    Those who work in the rubber industry must maintain a global mindset and stay aware of what’s happening in Southeast Asia. This makes it easier to predict and get ahead of supply chain issues. 

    How many custom mixers does a rubber parts manufacturer work with?

    In general, a diverse rubber products manufacturer will have at least three custom mixers: 
    • One for organic rubbers, including EPDM, Nitrile, SBR and natural
    • One for silicone rubber
    • One for fluoroelastomers 
    External factors like market price, service and physical proximity influence how many custom mixers a rubber molding company works with. The closer a company is to affordable mixers who offer dependable service, the less likely they are to seek out alternatives. However, it’s always wise to have a backup option in case of supply chain disruption. 

    The rubber supplier industry is relatively decentralized with some small businesses thriving in their space and two well-known, larger custom mixers that many brands work with. 
    • Hexpol is a Swedish company with global buying power, making them a dependable resource.
    • Wacker Chemical (pronounced ‘Vacker’ Chemical) is a German-based manufacturer of silicone rubber. 

    Addressing supply chain disruptions

    In the last two years, disruptions have caused several issues up and down the natural rubber supply chain, mainly surrounding ingredient availability. When a custom mixer runs short on rubber or can’t provide a certain key ingredient for a company’s formula, substitutions must be made. 

    Sometimes these substitutions fit right in, other times they don’t work at all, leading to poor product quality and causing delays in shipment. Wise rubber molding companies prepare for the worst by establishing variations on existing formulas that allow for the use of approved substitutions. 

    At Custom Rubber Corp., we have excellent working relationships with all of our custom mixers, which are almost always able to provide consistent material quality and delivery. We believe the best defenses against supply chain issues is adequate preparation and healthy business relationships.

    Inquire about availability, get advice on substitutions or reach out and chat with us about the world’s biggest rubber custom mixers here. 
    Posted Sunday, June 12, 2022 by: Global Administrator
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