The Rubber industry in Singapore can be traced back all the way to 1876; where the first group of rubber seeds step ashore from Kew in poor condition but it is only in September 1877 where the rubber plants managed to be planted successfully in Singapore. These rubber seeds were planted in the Singapore Botanic Garden.
Contrary to the story that these seeds were smuggled out from Brazil to the rest of the world, an official statement reported that these exports were made on the goodwill and co-operation of the Brazilian government. The early years of the rubber trees in Singapore were not as glamorize as many would thought. It was only when Mr. Ridley took over as Director of the Botanic Gardens that the rubber trees begin to see the light again.
At first, the rubber trees in the Gardens were used as an experimentation and research to discover the rubber tree’s fullest potential as a commercial plantation crop. These results and techniques found in 1904 is still relevant and currently still being employed today. Keeping in mind that over in Malaya, there was also a parallel timeline where rubber seeds are also planted along the Straits Settlements. All these various botanic gardens in Malaya were then all under the direction and leadership of Singapore.
By the late 19th century, the demand for rubber increase in welcoming tyre and motoring companies that were starting out in London and the United States. With companies like Ford and Goodyear which specialise in tyres begin to increase manufacturing in automobiles which were affordable to more people, rubber was needed in greater and ever increasing demand. Entrepreneurs and investments start coming in, in a form of large rubber planting on the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. From large corporation to small local farmers, Rubber was suddenly in abundant and prices fell from over-supply.
Despite being one of the early and important game player in the rubber industry in the region, Singapore’s limited land area sees Singapore serve as a rubber milling centre to serve the plantations in Malaya and Indonesia. Furthermore, Singapore’s strategic location and port facilities makes Singapore an essential part of the economic chain in import and exporting of rubber to different parts of the world.
As a result, Chinese rubber exporters blossom and they became rubber tycoons overnight. Right after the Japanese Occupation, these tycoons were on the forefront of resolving post-war industry issues. The government saw the importance of the rubber industry’s continued contribution to Singapore’s economy and the nation’s infrastructure. This lead to the Rubber Association of Singapore(RAS) converted into a government Statutory Body by an Act of Parliament.