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Diversify, don’t depend only on gloves, Zuraida tells rubber industry players

Plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin visiting an exhibition of rubber products after launching the Global Funding for Rubber Innovation. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Rubber industry players need to diversify into the non-medical area to continue to be among the main contributors to the economy moving forward, plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said.

She said during the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia emerged among the top global exporters of medical rubber gloves due to the country’s ability to meet the growing demand.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, our commodities were doing well, whether it was palm oil, rubber, timber, pepper or others.”

She said Malaysia had reached great heights in its rubber glove production during the pandemic.

“But now, probably we can diversify a bit and move into the non-medical area,” she said at the launch of the Global Funding for Rubber Innovation (GFRI) here today.

She said the Malaysian Rubber Council (MRC), through GFRI, was providing a start-up fund of RM10 million as research grants.

“This research fund is open to all local and foreign researchers from various public and private research institutions, universities, institutions of higher learning and companies, here and outside Malaysia.”

She said a special committee, comprising industry and technical experts from the public and private sectors, had been established to conduct technical and financial evaluations on research proposal papers that meet the requirements of the funding programme.

Zuraida said GFRI’s main objective is to encourage the generation of ideas, innovations and inventions for rubber products and technologies with high commercialisation viability to attract investments in the Malaysian rubber industry.

“Industries, universities and research institutions are the nation’s best mind centres that have a pool of experts from various fields,” she said.

Therefore, she said researchers from various organisations played an important role in generating innovations that could contribute to economic prosperity.

“In this regard, Malaysia can use technical expertise from developed countries such as the US, Europe and Japan, which has the potential to drive rapid technological development,” she said.

She said the ministry would continue to support rubber product development innovations that have the potential to drive the country’s economic growth. It was also committed to ensure the rubber industry continued to remain competitive in the global market.

Zuraida added that Malaysia’s rubber products are now exported to 189 countries, with a growth of 50.6% in value, from RM40.1 billion in 2020 to RM61.7 billion in 2021.