I REFER to the article “Driven by passion to boost ailing local rubber industry” (Sunday Star, Feb 16). The development of the Cuplump Modified Bitumen (CMB) technology, which uses coagulated rubber produced by smallholders in Malaysia, for road construction is indeed commendable.
The article is an eye-opener for many in this country, especially those linked to the rubber industry whether directly or indirectly, and it is good to learn how innovative our researchers and scientists have been in this sector.
It was also heartening to see the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) pushing women to the forefront in trying to rejuvenate the rubber industry, which was pioneered by Malaysia globally.
Due to the huge challenges posed by massive industrialisation and the migration of youths to cities, serious efforts are needed to turn the industry around.
I am wondering why the MRB kept the CMB innovation under wraps for so long instead of trying to market it not only to Malaysian road builders but also globally. I guess it needs to do better marketing in this respect.
What I could read between the lines was the difficulties MRB was facing in trying to get local private road builders and the Public Works Department (JKR) to support the rubber smallholders by using CMB to build roads.
The article stated that Malaysia has a road network of 250,000km. One can only imagine the massive boost this would give to the poor rubber smallholders if slowly but surely all roads are converted to rubberised roads using CMB as an aggregate.
The government spends billions of ringgit annually to build and maintain roads. If even 10% of this goes towards CMB purchase, the smallholders would be in for better times.
As much as I can understand the concerns of road builders who may argue that it is currently more costly to use CMB, a fact to which MRB has conceded, I wish to point out that if you bring in the argument of economy of scale, builders, smallholders and the rubber industry would be the beneficiaries.
It would definitely see a proportionate saving in costs which is gained by an increased level in production. So the government and government-linked companies building roads must commit themselves to improving the lives of the rural folks who are suffering.
Of course, the chain reaction from this commitment would be immense, including alleviating the burden of rubber smallholders who are struggling to make a living.
And the government would even be able to stop the cash incentive it is doling out during the rainy season when the rubber yield drops.
I believe the government needs political will to push through this agenda, as the current builders are all the big players in the construction industry who would surely oppose any move to reduce their role and thus their profits.
Coming from a rubber smallholding family, I know the difficulties faced by this group of tappers. I sincerely urge the government to use this great innovation wisely to benefit the poor.
SON OF A TAPPER
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