Burgeoning demand for medical equipment to protect against Covid-19 is set to take rubber prices even higher as they already near five-year peaks, analysts have said.

Prices for latex from Malaysia are currently more than 50pc higher than their 2020 nadir, whilst rubber futures being traded in Tokyo are up more than 39pc in the year-to-date. 

Globally, just 15 of the 52 rubber product categories were trading below what they had been prior to Covid on Thursday, and prices of some varieties of rubber were almost at five-year highs.

Gnanasekar Thiagarajan, a director at Commtrendz Research, said: “It’s quite evident that the Covid-19 situation has given a fillip to rubber futures overall”. He said in part this was down to “demand from various countries for rubber gloves”.

Figures released last month by Malaysia’s largest rubber glove manufacturers association and the Economic Intelligence Centre suggested that since the start of the year, there had been demand for 360bn rubber gloves, a 20pc rise on 2019. 

In the UK, sales from glove supplier Top Glove, meanwhile, had jumped by more than 300pc between January and July this year, as the Government scrambled to gain access to more personal protective equipment. The company recently said it believed its best days were “still ahead” of them, given continuing strong demand, and that there expected to be a shortage in rubber gloves through to 2022.

Mr Thiagarajan said rises were also fuelled by the automotive sector, especially from Asian countries where tyres were increasingly in high demand “simply because private transportation is becoming a preferred way to travel”.

He said demand was unlikely to let up soon, with the “picture looking extremely strong”. 

“I don’t think there’ll be any let-up in prices. It’s only going to go higher from here.”

His comments were echoed by Ann Sun, a senior analyst at ICIS, who said to “expect higher prices in 2021”. She said “people’s habits have changed, and there’s not enough capacity to match the demand”.

Currently, suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand, with the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries last month warning that production was down 8.7pc, year-over-year between January and August.

In Southeast Asia, where more than two thirds of natural rubber is produced, floods and labour shortages, linked to the pandemic, have hurt output.

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