KUALA LUMPUR—The COVID-19 pandemic is taking an increasing toll on the natural rubber industry with the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries revising its forecasts for the fourth time this year.
In its May update, the association lowered projections for both supply and demand, despite a slight recovery in prices at the end of April and the relaxation of COVID-19 containment measures.
The ANRPC now has scaled down its estimates for NR production by another 303,000 metric tons, expecting the total figure to fall by 4.7 percent to 13.1 million tons for 2020.
Global demand has also been lowered, largely based on the revisions made by India and Indonesia.
According to the revised outlook, the world consumption in 2020 is expected to fall 6.0 percent to 12.9 million tons, down from 13.0 million tons projected in April.
In a statement, ANRPC Secretary General RB Premadasa, said he expected market recovery to continue, "albeit at a slow pace and subject to a set of risk factors."
The COVID-19 pandemic, he went on to say, put the world rubber industry into "one of the worst crises in the past few decades," pushing the stakeholders in the whole value-chain into "chaos and hopelessness."
The pandemic, according to ANRPC, has generated additional demand for NR in the manufacturing of gloves and other rubber-based health care products, especially in Malaysia and Thailand.
This trend, it noted, is helping to partially offset the fall in demand from the automotive and tire segments.
In January, ANRPC forecast 3.8 percent annual growth in NR production to 14.3 million tons. Demand was expected to grow 2.7 percnt to 14.0 million tonnes.