Rubber

What are those trees with the black buckets on them?

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A rubber plantation on Koh Mak, Trat Province

In southern Thailand, a common feature of the landscape are large plots of land filled with skinny trees planted in near perfect rows. The trees will all have black cups strapped around them and have been tapped in a manner that a Canadian would recognize as being similar to the method used to collect maple syrup. The sap that these trees collect though is natural rubber.

There is a common story in the south that, prior to the tourism boom, the eldest sons of the landowning families would inherit the valuable inland rubber plantations while the younger sons would inherit the less valuable (at the time) waterfront property. Haha – looks like we know who came out on top in that bit of business? Well, history would make it seem as though the youngest sons won that exchange but…

Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of natural rubber by far and the rubber plantations you will see in the south are a testament to this. In 2014 Thailand exported over $6bn USD worth of natural rubber, $1bn USD more than second place Indonesia and almost 5 times as much as third place Vietnam.

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