Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., will double rubber glove production at its Malaysian plant in 2021, in response to surging demand in Japan for personal protective equipment such as medical gloves amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sumitomo will be boosting production at the request of the Japanese government. The country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is providing a 75 million yen ($709,680) subsidy for the project.
The Japanese tire and rubber major will export the gloves manufactured at its plant in Sungai Petani, northern Malaysia, from next year. The gloves will be shipped to Japan for use in medical institutions and factories. In the future, the company plans to export gloves produced at the plant to other countries.
According to a report in the Japanese press, Sumitomo will spend 150 million yen ($1.4 million) to install another production line for nitrile rubber gloves at the Malaysian plant. The output at the facility will increase to 2 million pairs a month, once the production line is finished.
The Sungai Petani factory, operated by local subsidiary Sumirubber Malaysia Sdn. Bhd., began operations in 1981. It currently produces rubber gloves and sealants to repair punctured tires. Sumitomo produces rubber gloves only in Malaysia.
The company said that though its rubber glove business accounts for a small ratio of its entire sales, it expects global rubber glove demand to remain strong even after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
In April, Sumitomo donated 97,500 pairs of nitrile rubber gloves to the Japanese government to support medical institutions in the fight against coronavirus.
Sumitomo Rubber is one of 30 companies in the country receiving official subsidies from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The subsidies are part of the country’s measures to diversify supply chains and reduce dependence on China.