Natural rubber PEFC Field Dialogue trip
To support the growing market for certified natural rubber, PEFC and the Vietnam Forest Certification Scheme (VFCS) organised a PEFC Field Dialogue trip for those working in the region to share knowledge and find out more about certification.
The event was led by Dr. Vu Tan Phuong, Director of VFCS, and Richard Laity, Manager of PEFC Southeast Asia. In attendance were PEFC endorsed organisations, accreditation bodies, UN-REDD representatives and experts in the forestry industry from Lower Mekong Region (LMR) countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar plus representatives from Responsible Wood Australia.
Soil Association Certification were the only Certification Body present. Helen Leach, Certification Manager for Asia attended the two-day event. Read her diary from her trip…
Visiting Acacia and Eucalyptus plantations
On day one, the group visited the fast-growing plantations of Acacia and Eucalyptus species at two experimental stations.
The stations are looking at seed and clone testing in order to select the best seeds and build-in disease resistance which will lead to higher timber yields. Stand management is also being assessed with the aim of improving the quality of the timber.
Opportunities and challenges of certification
The second day started with a series of presentations at Dau Tieng Rubber Corporation. The company is PEFC FM and COC certified for their Vietnamese rubber plantation and latex rubber processing factories. They have additional forest area in Laos and Cambodia which they are planning on getting certified.
Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) were also present to share their experience and challenges of becoming certified following disassociation from FSC in 2015 and subsequent PEFC COC certification from May 2022. Of note were gaining an understanding of the whole PEFC system, fees and maintenance of certification requirements which may go against economic plans. But the company is driven by their environmental and social responsibilities, and an appreciation of how valuable stakeholder knowledge is.
The rubber tapping process
We then visited the Tran Van Tien Plantation to see the rubber trees and tapping process. The trees are tapped at 4am when the temperatures are cooler and in the evening the contents of the bowls is collected. Every four days a new cut is made further up the tree but the cuts only affect the bark rather than the wood so timber can be harvested once the tapping is completed.
From liquid to a product ready for shipping
The trip concluded with seeing the rubber manufacturing process at the Dau Tieng Rubber Factory. It looks a lot like making cheese! The liquid rubber is poured into chambers where it gets treated with a chemical to become solid rubber. This is formed into blocks and packaged up for shipping.
A growing demand for natural rubber
Lower Mekong Region countries are seeing exponential demand for timber, putting pressure on forests. Yet as consumers become more aware of the environmental footprint of the products they purchase, there is a growing market demand for certified products.
It’s hoped that these close neighbouring countries will learn from the plantation experiments and certified rubber companies to see what’s possible to reduce deforestation and gain certification for a more sustainable forestry and wood-trade industry. Sharing of knowledge will be key and PEFC Asia-Pacific’s goal is to make certification more accessible to developing countries.