Fair Rubber in Times of Covid

You are not alone if you are fed up with all the devastating news surrounding the Covid pandemic and its impact. The Fair Rubber Association (FRA) and its work has not been spared either: Supply chains have shut down because factories had to close when workers became infected, travel became difficult to impossible for groups that wanted to meet, or for auditors to visit.
And of course the shock to the economy hit the natural rubber sector hard, too: Because an estimated 70% of all natural rubber goes into tyres, its price is closely linked to that of synthetic rubber (i.e. rubber made from petroleum): If the oil price is low – using synthetic (where possible) instead of natural rubber makes economic sense. The slump in car sales, air travel etc. kept the price for oil low, and as a result the price for natural rubber is at or below the cost of production.
However, car and tyre makers still seem to fail to understand that if they do not pay better prices now – there may not be enough natural rubber available in a few years. With prices as low as they are now, small rubber farmers and plantations are abandoning rubber in increasing numbers.
Despite the dire economic situation, the FRA has seen a surprising uptick in support and interest from existing and new members: A bedding shop in Switzerland, who likes the work of the FRA so much that the owner became a supporting member reported that on the first day of reopening after the shut down in spring – the first item he sold was a natural rubber mattress from our founding member Prolana. At the other end of the size-scale we have just welcomed a Fortune 500 company (more information in the next newsletter).
And the supplier partner base also keeps growing.
Since FRA staff, too, could not travel, we are (re)telling the story of the use of Fair Trade premiums by some of our longest supplier partners on the next page: This is the difference that the payment of a small Fair Trade premium can have on the lives of 100s of primary rubber suppliers.Makers of cars and tyres still don’t get it: Small farmers and tappers deserve fair payment, too.