PEFC and the Thailand Forestry Certification Council (TFCC), its national member for Thailand, have launched a group certification project to support smallholders producing rubber in Thailand.
PEFC and the Thailand Forestry Certification Council (TFCC) have launched a group certification project to support smallholders producing rubber in Thailand (Image is credited to PEFC)
Presented in the Trang province in Thailand in March, the project supports the Klongprang Cooperative in implementing group certification for 1000 hectares of forest, managed by small-scale rubber growers.
A wide range of stakeholders from the industry is participating in this effort, providing not only technical and financial support but also market information and demand for the certified products.
The pilot project will build a group model and supporting mechanisms to enable more smallholders to achieve TFCC/PEFC certification in the upcoming years.
Challenges for the Thai rubber industry
Thailand is one of the largest rubber producers and exporters in the world, with an export value of almost US$40 billion in 2019. Most of the exported rubber comes from the 2.4 million hectares of forest owned by millions of smallholders.
Yet, the Thai rubber sector is facing challenges, as international buyers are increasingly requesting proof of the sustainable and legal origin of the rubber.
“Implementing TFCC/PEFC certification is one of the essential steps that Thailand is taking to ensure market access and price stability for their rubber products,” said Mr. Sakchai Unchittikul, President of Committee of TFCC.
Also rubber-related manufacturers and suppliers are taking action by supporting rubber producers to implement TFCC/PEFC certification. Inoue Rubber Thailand Public Co., LTD (IRCT), one of the country’s biggest manufacturers, will buy the group’s TFCC/PEFC-certified natural rubber.
“This is part of IRCT’s effort to demonstrate our commitment to sourcing materials from sustainable rubber plantation and sustainable supply chains,” said Mrs. Pimjai Leeisaranukul, Executive Chair of IRCT.
A feasible group certification model for Thai small-scale rubber growers
Most rubber growers in Thailand are small-scale farmers with an area as small as 0.32 hectares. Group certification is the only way to allow them to implement TFCC/PEFC certification in a cost-effective manner.
Rubber growers’ cooperatives are a strong institutional platform for farmers in Thailand. With more than 400 active cooperatives, rubber farmers join together to gather natural latex, harvest rubber timber, and transport it to factories.
These cooperatives also provide a wide range of services for their members, particularly the successful implementation of several national quality product standards for productive rubber plantations and high-quality production. Klongprang cooperative is one example.
“With almost 25 years operating in the rubber industry, we and our farmers are all aware of the sustainability challenges ahead and we need to be ready. Equipping ourselves with TFCC/PEFC certificates is one of the ways to prepare for that,” said Ms. Supawan Khandee, Cooperative manager.
“We are very happy to be supported by key national stakeholders and we do hope the group model built by this project will be an excellent case study for other cooperatives too.”
In the next five months, the project is going to ensure the group meets all requirements of the national TFCC/PEFC forest management standard and is ready for the audit in August 2020.
“TFCC also plans to establish stronger linkages between private sectors, buyers and producers to build the confidence of farmers in terms of market demand for certified products,” said Mr. Sakchai Unchittikul.
“We hope that all of these efforts will pave the way for a steady and long-term expansion of forest certification in Thailand.”