KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Global demand for and output of natural rubber fell last year versus 2018, according to the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, which said the outbreak of the coronavirus has clouded its outlook for at least the first quarter of 2020.
Production of NR fell 0.7 percent to 13.8 million metric tons, in large part due to the spread of a fungal disease that affected more than 1.2 million acres of yielding rubber trees, ANRPC Secretary General R. B. Premadasa said.
The total harvested area in the member countries expanded by 867,000 acres to 23.5 million acres last year, but the average yield fell 8 percent to 1.12 tons per acre, the ANRPC said, blaming the reduced yield on "poor maintenance of rubber holdings" and a "substantial fall" in demand from China and India.
World NR consumption fell 1 percent to 13.7 million tons, a change Premadasa blamed on the global economic slowdown, "crisis" in the automotive sector, trade uncertainties and geopolitical factors.
As for 2020, the Kuala Lumpur-based trade group said it is too early to gauge the full impact of the outbreak of coronavirus on the demand prospects of NR.
While the outbreak has slowed or halted major industrial activities in China, the disease has generated additional demand for hygiene products such as rubber gloves, the association noted.