MAY 4 ― It is an open secret that prices of glove stocks on Bursa Malaysia have slumped substantially since the beginning 2H 2021.

This comes about as manufacturers from the Big-Four glove makers to other smaller producers are grappling with normalising average selling prices (ASPs) which is inching closer to their pre-pandemic levels amid an increasingly competitive operating landscape (eg. the surge of raw material costs, manpower constraints, logistical challenges and inflationary pressure unless the higher production cost can be passed down to end-users).

Painful as it is, we have to accept that it is highly unlikely that the “gold rush” days at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 ― whereby every glove stock one touched turned into gold which then prompted the mushrooming of new industry players ― will recur anytime soon especially as the world is gradually transitioning into the endemic phase.

Rather than to stay still and let opportunities slip by us, we should be creatively exploring ways and means to make the glove industry “lucrative and thriving again” although certainly not at the similar pace when demand was soaring and ASP skyrocketed to record levels.

In this regard, the move by the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) to tap the non-medical industries to drive the future demand for nonmedical grade gloves is timely considering that the re-opening of Malaysian borders since April 1 will spur economic recovery with spill-over effect on the travel/tourism, manufacturing and food and beverage (F&B) sectors, to name a few examples.

To cite MARGMA president Dr Supramaniam Shanmugam, while demand for gloves would not be able to match levels seen during the pandemic stage of Covid-19, glove makers are also aware that there are industries out there which critically need gloves but such measures is currently not prioritised.

Rather than banking their focus on the healthcare sector per se, at least glove manufacturers can now switch their focus to also count on the afore-mentioned industry players as their clients given the pandemic has sparked great awareness about the importance of hygiene to prevent contamination or even to curb the spread of diseases.

After all, disposable non-medical grade gloves (like their medical grade counterparts) come in a range of sizes, colours, thicknesses and textures. Applications for such gloves exist in businesses from tattoo parlours to laboratories to childcare centres.

While the F&B industry was only a small consumer of gloves for the longest of time, the past eight to 10 years has seen rising awareness level with industry players and consumers alike taking cognisance of the fact that handling food revolves around the levels of cleanliness.

This even applies to the semiconductor electronic industry to protect an electrical or electronic component from contamination.

In fact, I personally just completed a 10-nation tour which included Egypt, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkey to promote our commodities and open up new markets.

A shopper puts on rubber gloves after arriving at one of the shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, May 26, 2020 — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A shopper puts on rubber gloves after arriving at one of the shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, May 26, 2020 — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

During the visits, we signed numerous MoUs, while I also took the opportunity to dispel some allegations against our commodities and set the records straight.

Therefore, on the part of the ministry, we will do all we can to assist our local manufacturers in securing new markets and “spreading their wings” to non-medical sectors.

We have constantly been working closely with our local industry players and by continuing to do so, there is no doubt that our local rubber glove industry will continue to thrive.

* Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin is the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.