H. S. Firestone on Rubber Situation

H. S. Firestone on Rubber Situation

In an interview regarding the present crude rubber situation. H. S. Firestone, president of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, Akron, O., said: “A sharp turn of war conditions may quickly relieve the present tie-up of navigation and permit crude rubber shipments to reach us, but right now the situation is serious. Just to be an optimist, I might tell you that the crisis is past, but I can’t do it without deceiving you and myself. It needs no deep analysis or exhaustive investigation to size up the crude rubber situation. Everything is on the surface and everybody who reads the war news knows as much as the rubber manufacturers as to the date when regular shipments will again start. Here’s the facts. Over 60 per cent of the crude rubber used in the United States comes ‘from the Far East, via the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. No merchant ships are passing through these seas now, and we don’t know when they will start, surely not for a while. Shippers could divert the shipments via the Pacific Ocean to our western coast, but this change would require time and we have no word that such a course is under advisement. London, of course, has always been the transfer point, but the high grade rubber in stock there would not supply the American rubber manufacturers more than a week. Naturally at this point there are also big accumulations of ‘off grades’ available (that is. cheap rubber usually unsaleable for the making of tires), and there has been recent activity in this grade. Firestone, however, would close their plant rather than use this low grade rubber. Being shut off from the east, we must look to South America for our supply. Here we find only a few hundred tons in stock, because the Brazilian district has a steady market for all they make during their open season. Just now this country is flooded with torrential rains and the gathering of crude rubber cannot start until October. So we find but little immediate relief there. When shipments start to come in from the east, crude rubber prices will probably decline sharply, although it has been reported unofficially that when navigation stopped the plantation owners laid off their men and ceased tapping the trees. This, of course, would mean a shortage of rubber, but it is my personal opinion that transportation is the main difficulty and that as soon as navigation opens, we will find plenty of rubber to supply this country.”

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