Natural rubber

The global natural rubber market

World production of natural rubber is estimated at 13.7 million tonnes in 2019 (source International Rubber Study Group - IRSG), 90% of which comes from the Asian continent. The largest producing countries are Thailand and Indonesia with 4.9 million tonnes and 3.2 million tonnes respectively, or 60% of world production.

Natural rubber
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Natural rubber

Image representing natural rubber

The vast majority (80%) of natural rubber comes from family plantations, between 0.5 and 10 ha. About 30 million people live from the cultivation of rubber trees in the world. Natural rubber has specific properties of resilience, tensile strength, abrasion resistance and low internal heating, which makes it essential for the production of tyres. It is recognized as a strategic raw material by the European Union.

Natural rubber consumption is mainly located in producing countries (69% in 2019) and in particular in China, which remains the world’s largest consumer (around 40% of global demand). Europe is the second largest importer of natural rubber after China and ahead of the United States (1 million tonnes) and Japan (0.7 million tonnes). At European level, France is the third consumer of natural rubber (9.3%) after Germany (17.3%) and Spain (15.6%).

Natural rubber and France

In France, natural rubber is mainly used for the manufacture of tires and for industrial-type applications intended for the manufacture of anti-vibration parts for the automotive industry, by the shoe industry and for the manufacture of glues and adhesives, bottle teats, gloves, etc.

French consumption of natural rubber remained stable at around 122,000 tonnes per year between 2013 and 2018, but fell in 2019 (estimated -10%). This decrease, like that of Germany, would be due to the relocation of factories in the automotive industry. In France, the rubber processing industry (natural and synthetic) employed 44,500 people in 2018, of which 53% in the tire sector.

Sustainable natural rubber

The two main collective approaches in development on sustainable rubber are the Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative (SNR-i) of the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Rubber (GPSNR).

This information comes from the work of AFD’s Forest Scientific and Technical Committee.