The International Rubber Research and Development Board ‘United We Stand’

The Beginning: Coming together for the future of Natural Rubber.

Henry Ford, the inventor of the Ford Model T car once said that

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

           As the founder of the Ford Motor Company, the success he created in the motor industry had been borne out of this strong commitment to unity. Aptly, in 1960, natural rubber, the very product that Ford’s car industry had greatly depended on, was given due attention with the coming together of rubber research institutes and stakeholders worldwide through the establishment of the International Rubber Research and Development Board (IRRDB) that year. Since then, unity, collaboration and the sharing   and exchange of skills and knowledge has been the thrust of this successful international research and development network.

            Ever since natural rubber was first exported from Brazil to the Kew Gardens in the 1870s, it steadily grew into a prized commodity and soon began playing a major role in the socio-economic fabric of many developing countries. Millions of small growers have been dependent on this important agricultural commodity and today, a host of products ranging from shoe soles to tyres are the essential ingredients of modern life. “Without rubber there could be no tyres, and without tyres there could be no automobiles.” said Firestone in 1932.

            But the commercialisation of rubber has also brought some challenges amidst its success, seen in many aspects from productivity issues to price fluctuation to plantation diseases and low income among smallholders. These are ongoing issues that many natural rubber-producing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have had to deal with, making it all the more necessary to have a unifying organisation like the IRRDB for rubber growers and stakeholders to turn to for support and advice.

            The origins of the IRRDB date back to 1934, when the International Rubber Regulation Committee was formed to protect natural rubber producers from the effects of the extremely low prices of that period. In order to adjust supply to match demand the Committee regulated production and exports. Three years later, it went to on to establish the International Research board to establish research and development. It was not until 1960 that the two bodies merged to form the International Rubber Research and Development Board, aimed fostering greater collaboration between natural-rubber producing countries.