A leading rubber industry agency has predicted Malaysia will emerge as the world's top condom producer this year, dethroning Thailand as the market leader.
The Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council said Malaysia has captured at least one-third of the world's production, surpassing the one billion mark.
“We can be the world's No. 1 this year due to flood woes in Thailand. Our last year's production figures would have easily crossed a billion condoms,” said Low Yoke Kiew, the council's marketing and development director.
In 2010, Malaysia, the world's fourth largest natural rubber producer, shipped out latex-made sheath contraceptives worth nearly RM300 million (US$95.7 million), almost tripling the export value in 2005.
Malaysia, backed by the strong latex products industry, largely small and medium size, joins the billion-piece condom makers' club, coincidentally dominated by Asian giants.
Top Asian manufacturers such as Thailand, China, India, Japan and Malaysia continue to flood global markets with over 10 billion condoms.
Ultra-thin, multi-colored-scented condoms, sold in fancy packets in nook-and-corners are a fast-growing consumer item, even in a conservative market like India where they are sold in public vending machines.
Besides rising health awareness and cheap and easily used contraceptives, the United Nations health programs and sexual advertisements are pushing up condom sales globally.
In China, over two billion condoms are sold, while the Japanese buy 580 million pieces a year. India's production has crossed a billion pieces.
“Malaysian condoms are in good demand and competitive. We're now supplying a lot to UN programs. We expect very good growth for all our latex products this year, including condoms,” Low added.
Condom makers rely on natural rubber, as over 90 percent of the sheath contraceptives are made using latex, while lamb intestines is another material used in the industry.
The first rubber condom was produced in 1855, apparently as thick as a bicycle inner tube. Eventually, sophisticated technology has revolutionized condom production into almost weightless, lubricated and cheap items. (mtq)