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Information on Koh Lanta Island:
Rubber Plantations and Production

Today more than 1000 different plants are known in the tropics which produce sap, that can be used for making rubber. The most important one is the

Para rubbertree, from the Amazon valley, that reaches a height of up to 30 m. The tree needs a year round temperature of 27º C and a yearly rainfall of 2000 mm. During the dry season it looses its leaves and the flowers open together with the new leaves. The fruits open with a loud crack.

To keep the rubber monopoly to Brasil the export of the seeds was strictly forbidden during the last century. In 1877, 70000 seeds were smuggled to Britain and grown in Kew Botanical Garden/London. Since 1878 the trees were grown in the British colony Malaya and in 1901 the Gouvernor of Trang Province introduced them to Thailand. The first Para rubbertree ever grown in Thailand is still standing in front of his house in Kantang.

At the age of 6-7 years the tree is big enough and the bark is cut. This is done by the light of a carbide lamp before sunrise. The milky white sap runs into coconut halfes and is collected during the forenoon. In flat tubs it is mixed with fornic acid and after becoming solid it is rolled between two cylinders giving it the shape of a small mat. Most often the mats hang on bamboo poles in front of the houses to dry. During this process the colour changes from white to light or dark brown. The dried mats are bought by middlemen to deliver them to factorys, where tires and gloves for single use are produced. For that purpose sulphur is added to obtain soft (4-5% sulphur ) or hard rubber (25-30% sulphur). This vulcanisation process was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1839 already.

With 1.5 Million tons Thailand is the world's biggest producer of rubber and together with Indonesia and Malaysia 75% of the worlds demand are produced. Main markets are the USA, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan and South Korea.

After 25-30 years the trees are exhausted and cut. They are used for burning charcoal and furniture. On the cleared area new trees are planted.




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