PETALING JAYA: The Thai government is targeting some US$10bil worth of investments for the Rubber City development located in the Southern Region Industrial Estate of Hat Yai, 946 km south of Bangkok.
The project, spanning across 364ha or half of the industrial estate, would be developed by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, a government agency.
Rubber City plans to attract investors who want to develop the rubber-processing industry and at the same time, increase the value of rubber products in Thailand while encouraging employment.
Thai ambassador to Malaysia Damrong Kraikruan said at a media briefing last week that the focus would be to add value to the raw rubber produced.
"Thailand produced some 4.1 million tonnes last year in raw materials (rubber). We process only 10 per cent and the rest is for export. With this Rubber City in place, we hope to achieve 15 per cent to 30 per cent later on," he said, adding that the plunge in rubber prices had affected Thailand's rubber industry. "We hope to attract investments from Malaysia. Right now investors from China have expressed their interest in the Rubber City."
Damrong said IET would start selling land to investors who want to start setting up their factories for the first of the project. Companies can start reserving their areas by February.
It has been reported that another similar project has been planned for Padang Terap, Kedah. According to reports, the 400ha project aims to link the region's major rubber producers - Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia - as part of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.
"We want factories to be up by September and start operating by 2017.
"Right now Michelin has already started their works in Rubber City," he said, adding that land prices in the estate start from RM180,000 per half-acre with rents starting from RM7,000 (S$2335) for half-acre.
Thailand remains the world's number one grower and exporter of natural rubber although prices have dropped sharply on the international market in recent years.
The industry employs two million people in the kingdom, including many migrant workers, according to the Rubber Research Institute of Thailand.
The institute said a bloated oversupply of natural rubber produced in Thailand and increased demand for petroleum-based synthetic rubber have contributed along with other factors to falling prices.
The price for natural rubber from Thailand has plummeted since 2011.
Five years ago, sheets of ribbed rubber sold for 174 baht (S$6.29) per kg. Now they sell for 34 baht a kg, according to statistics from the institute.