U.S. industrial consumers in search of superior rubber for sophisticated products need look no further than Lankeprene--Sri Lanka's latex crepe and the champagne of natural rubber. Lankeprene is the purest form of natural rubber, lowest in protein, lightest in color, and ideal for manufacturing clear adhesives and light-colored products.
With help from The Competitiveness Initiative (TCI), a USAID-funded project managed by Nathan Associates, latex crepe producers in Sri Lanka developed Lankaprene and are now positioning it in the global market. Manufacturers have modernized processing plants, trained workers, and set up procedures to deliver high volumes of the top-grade latex crepe to meet expected consumer demand.
In July 2003, TCI sponsored a trip for members of Sri Lanka’s rubber cluster--producers, manufacturers, traders, retailers--to Akron, Ohio, to meet potential customers. They returned to Sri Lanka with practical ideas about meeting customers’ needs. Lankaprene was launched in the United States on a trial basis in April 2004. Since then consignments have been delivered at 25 percent above regular latex crepe prices, and producers are gearing up to deliver higher volumes this fall.
Recognizing the value of Lankaprene’s success in the U.S. market, Sri Lanka’s Rubber Institute and the Export Development Board have started promoting it in global markets. They are also developing marketing and certification schemes to protect the brand and appeal to consumers seeking superior rubber.
With nearly 300,000 Sri Lankans dependent on the rubber industry, Lankaprene has been a boon for thousands of growers who have returned to long-dormant rubber farms to work for higher wages. It promises to restore Sri Lanka’s reputation as a premium rubber supplier--this time with a value-added product, rather than a raw commodity.