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Colombian rubber industry ready to embrace EUDR challenges

By Preferred by Nature

“It is essential to work together and address the commitments and responsibilities that the EUDR regulation requires.” An interview with Fernando Garcia Rubio, Executive Director of both the Colombian Rubber Association and the Natural Rubber Research Center of Colombia.


 Fernando Garcia 

 Executive Director of the Colombian Rubber Association &  the Natural Rubber Research Center

 15+ years experience in the forestry sector

The EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) brings significant implications for the global rubber industry, especially in countries like Colombia – one of the producer countries of natural rubber from Latin America. Companies importing rubber into the EU will have to provide information mapping their supply chains, including geolocation data from where the rubber was harvested, to ensure compliance.

This focus on traceability can be particularly challenging as approximately 85% of the global natural rubber supply is supplied by around 6 million smallholder farmers.

Given the complexities of the Colombian rubber sector and the dominance of smallholder farmers, navigating the EUDR’s requirements presents a significant challenge.

To understand how Colombia is preparing for this regulation, we spoke with Fernando Garcia, a forestry engineer with over 15 years of experience in the forest sector. Fernando has extensive experience leading research and responsible practices in the rubber sector, focusing on sustainable rubber value chains. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Colombian Rubber Association (Confederación Cauchera Colombiana) and the Natural Rubber Research Center (Corporación Centro de Investigación en Caucho Natural – CENICAUCHO).

Fernando shared with us his perspective regarding the EUDR regulation and its implications for the Colombian rubber sector as well as how they are preparing for it.

In your opinion, what implications could the EUDR regulation have for the Colombian rubber sector?

This regulation presents a general challenge for any production system due to the changes and adjustments producers must make to gain entry and consolidate their positions in these markets. Since 2018, the rubber sector in Colombia has been working hand in hand with supply chain members to strengthen their business models for both domestic and international markets, including fundamental aspects of sustainability across the value chain.

The EUDR comes into effect as our association members have already made progress in traceability, achieving certifications for producers, and developing territorial market plans, among other aspects developed through ‘Uniendo Eslabones - Joining Links’ strategy. This strategy builds on three approaches aimed at integrating the potential of value chain members to enhance their competitiveness while generating positive environmental, social and economic impacts across different regions of the country.

Can the EUDR create market opportunities for the rubber sector? What might these opportunities be?

Natural rubber, a native forest species, has extensive plantations in Colombia. These plantations emerged from social and environmental initiatives to fight the spread of illicit crops and formalise agricultural and forestry activities in the countryside areas affected by armed conflict. Many current plantations were established as legal productive alternatives to support and increase the country's forest mass, promote rural employment, and conserve natural forests threatened by illegal mining, agricultural expansion, and extensive cattle ranching.

The environmental and social attributes of rubber, including profitability and sustainability, present opportunities for territories and rural communities. Using rubber from these areas provides the option of offering differentiated products in the market. Each finished product, whether a balloon, glove, tyre, floor, or belt, among others, contributes to the sustainable development of each region and the country as a whole.

The Natural Rubber Association and the rubber industry in Colombia have worked for over three years to develop the classification and traceability of raw materials from plantations to finished products. Still, this exercise has yet to yield significant business opportunities for the entire value chain.

What are the main challenges the sector is beginning to address in complying with this new regulation in the European market?

Our main challenge is to continue connecting all these described processes to a more significant number of companies that manufacture finished products with natural rubber, thereby consolidating a competitive chain that is aware of the social, environmental, and economic impacts in various regions. Another critical challenge is positioning the ‘100% Colombian natural rubber’ brand, which will be registered this year as a differentiating element and can be used to verify all traceability processes.

What type of support do the members of the Rubber Association need to comply with the EUDR?

This regulation poses challenges for many sectors, both governmental and private. Therefore, it is essential to work together and address the commitments and responsibilities that this regulation requires. The Natural Rubber Association and the industry have yet to receive committed support from government entities or any of its agencies. As a result, we have worked directly with supply chain members and our national and international allies to achieve the objectives we have reached so far.

What measures could different actors in the rubber value chain begin implementing to comply with the regulation?

Within the business model framework developed by the rubber association and its different actors, Colombia has excellent opportunities in differentiated and speciality markets, as well as the potential to obtain international certifications. One example is the Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSCTM) certification obtained by 85 small producers, a centrifuged latex plant, and recently by Colombia's leading balloon manufacturer. Preferred by Nature is a strategic ally of our association in achieving such milestones. The support of Preferred by Nature and achieving the FSC certification have strengthened the development of commercial processes within the rubber chain.

Why do you see Preferred by Nature and the tools we have developed as allies in achieving compliance?

The achievements and competitiveness of the Colombian natural rubber sector and the association over the past four years have resulted from coordinated efforts involving diverse actors. Preferred by Nature is one of such stakeholders that have contributed to our competitiveness through their knowledge of the international market, up-to-date due diligence tools, and sustainability services.

The National Rubber Association has an agreement signed with FSC to support the association's sustainability management. Preferred by Nature has become a fundamental ally in addressing the new challenges the international market poses. The rubber sector has chosen to become certified, and Preferred by Nature is a reliable certification body with whom we look forward to working to address those challenges.

The opinions and perspectives presented in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the official position or endorsement of Preferred by Nature. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided, readers are encouraged to conduct their own research and consult with relevant experts or authorities for specific guidance on regulatory compliance and industry practices.


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