Rubber industry in Sri Lanka has a long history and crucial to the national economy due to two reasons. First, it generates an aggregate annual turnover of over 1000 million US dollars while providing employment opportunities to more than 500,000 people in rural as well as urban areas. As a leading producer of natural rubber it produces all types of natural rubber including Ribbed Smoked Sheets, Latex Crepe, Technically Specified Rubber and Centrifuged Latex. Sri Lanka has a rapidly expanding rubber products manufacturing sector which produces diverse types of rubber products for various uses that include passenger car tires, commercial vehicle tires, industrial solid tires, latex gloves, foam cushions and automotive components. Sri Lanka is the world’s preferred supplier of solid tires. End of the economic life rubber trees are converted to high value furniture polpular in the western markets.
Rubber industry stakeholders both in the government and private sector have realized the great potential this industry has to grow and succeed in global markets. It has been estimated that the world market for rubber products exceed 400 billion US dollars. Over 50,000 products for different applications are being marketed, industry experts claim. This is considered a huge opportunity that will bring tremendous benefits to the country, if utilized effectively. With this objective, the government with the participation of the private sector has developed a long-term plan for rubber industry development. It is known as the Sri Lanka Rubber Industry Master Plan or, national agenda for rubber industry development.
The master plan has 25 specfic projects under ten programs that will be implemented within 10 years.That will assure a minimum turnover of 5,000 million US dollars. These project will open up great opportunities for various kinds of investors, both foreign and local. Some projects are aimed at developing the rubber growing and processing sector further while other projects aim at expanding the manufacturing industry by attracting more investments, product diversification, technological upgrading and human resources development.
Sri Lankan rubber industry requires many inputs to realize the goals of the master plan. Such specialized inputs can come from overseas by way of: technology; machinery and equipment; various materials including chemicals; ancillary equipment such as moulds and dies; markets and market information including trade contacts; new product ideas and design skills; human resource development expertise; quality management and certification services; environmental management knowledge; industry infrastructure facilities; packaging materials among many other inputs. Most crucially, Sri Lankan rubber industry needs large amounts of investments over a long period. Therefore, rubber industry provides opportunities for such investors.
Sri Lankan rubber plantations comprises of nearly 130,000 hectares out of which 46,635 hectares are managed by 20 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs). These companies are looking for investors to upgrade their opeartions, product portfolios and markets. They are also interested in forward integration and make rubber products for export markets.
Industrial Zones in Katunayake, Ekala, Biyagama, and Sapugaskanda have attracted many rubber related industries including large Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into rubber sector.The Rubber Master Plan envisages setting up a dedicated industrial park for rubber products named "Rubber City" which will provide lucrative investment opportunities.