Solutions to Rubber Farming Problems in Nigeria


Alt= "photo showing rubber plantation"

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Prospects of rubber production in Nigeria
  • Problems faceing rubber farming in Nigeria
  • Solutions to the problems

Introduction

Nigeria is one of the largest natural rubber producing nations in the world. Rubber production in Nigeria is dated back to 1894 when the indigenous, wild rubber, Funtumia elastic was explored. The planted rubber, Hevea braisiensi was planted in 1903 in Sapele in today’s Delta State. Heavea braisiensi was the sort after specie  due to its ability to replenish its bark and guaranteed repeated harvest — it has the highest yield.

Rubber was one of the then cash crops that were the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before the crude oil boom, and attention was drifted away from agriculture and focused on oil till date. Rubber and indeed the other cash crops have suffered much abandonment for decades. Even the economic diversification with emphasis on agriculture of Nigerian government since 2015 has not made any significant impact on rubber farming.

Prospects of  Rubber Production in Nigeria

Rubber byproducts are the most sort after agricultural product after food. Although, there is synthetic rubber, natural rubber is used in making many human essentials especially in the automobile, aviation and  industries. Some of these items include tyres, tubes, break pad, rubber bands, personal protective equipment (hand gloves, boots, condom, overalls) etc.

According to report by The Nation Newspaper, at the peak of rubber production in Nigeria, there were about 54 rubber producing companies. But today, there are less than 20 companies in operation, the rest production are done by smallholder farmers. This has cut the total national output by 40‰ even when the natural rubber is increasingly in demand. Presently, Nigeria's natural rubber latex is supplied only to local industries due to low production capacity; the opportunities at the international market are yet to be harnessed. Experts say Nigeria national annual output  has fallen from 130,000 metric tons to fluctuating 55,000 - 60,000 metric tons. There is therefore need for increased investment in natural rubber farming in Nigeria. The natural rubber of Nigeria is sold for about $2,000 per ton in the export market, and Nigeria is losing well over $6 billion at the export market. Researches have also shown that return on investment in rubber farming in Nigeria is about 70%. In simple term, every N1 invested in rubber farming brings profit of about N0.7. Although, industry players say there can be higher rate of return, if there are more improved clones with modern rubber farming practices, market stability through more investment, training, deliberate policy, owing to the fact that rubber farming is a long term investment.

Problems of Rubber Farming

There are numerous problems or challenges facing natural rubber production in Nigeria. They are:

Lack of Access to Farmland

Access to land is one of the major problems militating against rubber farming in Nigeria no thanks to the kind of land tenure system in place in Nigeria. Land acquisition process is very cumbersome in Nigeria, especially in the southern Nigeria. Land administration is mostly held by families in accordance with customary laws, the lands are passed on to generations with warnings not to dispose with family lands. Rubber plantation requires a vast land mass. To acquire enough land for rubber plantation, it may cover lands belonging to many different families; getting these families to agree to sell their land is an uphill task. Land Use Act makes the process of land acquiring more cumbersome. It takes ages to get land title from state governments. This is a discouraging factor for new investments or expansion of the existing ones.

Lack of Investment

There has not been adequate capital investments in the rubber farming in Nigeria since after the discovery of oil. Rubber, and indeed agricultural sector of the country has suffered much neglect both by the government and individuals. Most of the existing rubber trees and plantations are the ones planted 1970s which can’t produce optimally due to ageing, and new ones are not been planted. Many people consider farming as poor man’s business.

Inadequate Financing 

Rubber farming requires long term investment. Commercial banks are usauly unwilling to give long term loan  to farmers. Rubber tree maturity is between 5 to 8 years before it can be tapped and its economic lifespan is between 20 to 30, depending on the variety.  Generally, agriculture is considered to posses high risks by deposits money banks, and are skeptical about giving out loans for farm enterprise.

High Costs of Production

Cost of production seems to be the major challenges faced by rubber farmers  in Nigeria. These costs affect the profitability of rubber farming business. These costs include cost of labour, cost of rubber clone and other inputs, cost of tapping equipment, cost of transportation.

Low Access to Improved Rubber Clones

There are little or no improved clone locally available in Nigeria. Nigeria still rely so much on Hevea brasillensis brought to Nigeria from Britain in 1903. Although, that variety has the highest commercial yield, it still needs to be improved upon. Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria and other tree crops agencies are not doing so much on carrying out research to come up with improved rubber clones. Nigeria also import improved rubber clones from Malaysia, India and Indonesia.

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases also pose threat to rubber farming in Nigeria. If not well controlled they have the capability of destroying entire investment.

Poor Farm Management Practices

Many smallholder farmers still use the traditional method. They are yet to adop mechanized rubber farming due to lack of technologies and techniques.

Inadequate Extension Services

Market Failures

Solutions to the Problems

Easy Access to Land

The government at all levels should therefore facilitate and streamline the processes of land acquisition for the purposes of rubber plantation establishment and expansion. The government can establish rubber farm reserves or estates and allot lands to smallholder farmers. The National Land Development Authority should live up to its mandate. The state governments should make the process of getting Certificate of Occupancy very easy and timely. These will also empower the rubber farmers to be able to use their farmland titles to access loan facilities for their farming business.

Market Linkage and Price Stability

There should be linkage between the rubber farmers and the markets, both local and international markets. The government should ensure there are off-takers who will buy the rubber latex off from the farmers as soon as they produce at reasonable prices. There should be price control mechanism to forestall price fluctuations. Market linkage and price stability will encourage farmers to produce more, and induce more investment into the sector. Ministry of Trade and Investment and Nigeria Export Promotion Council should ensure there are functional outlets in the international markets.  

Access to Financing

The rubber latex farmers should be given access to adequate financing for their rubber production. The government through its interventionist agencies like Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bank of Industry, Agricultural Bank should have empowerment programmes targeted at providing credit facilities for the rubber farmers. It could be in form of cash or inputs. Deposit money banks and other financial institutions should increase their lending to agricultural sector in general and in rubber production in particular. The farmers on their own part should improve on their farming management practices to reduce risks and make their farming businesses bankable. The farmers should also form cooperative to enable them pool their resources together to acquire inputs and equipment that would be difficult for individual farmers to acquire, and to be able to be in better position to access government farmers empowerment programmes and credits from commercial banks.

More Capital Investments

Individuals and corporate organizations especially companies that use rubber latex as raw material, should invest in natural rubber production value chain.

Improved Rubber Seedlings

The Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria should do more in researching and developing improved or hybrid rubber seedlings that have the capacity to produce more latex per tree, per hectare, and that has resilience to pests and diseases.

Extension Services

Government at all levels through their ministries, departments and agencies with mandate on agriculture should engages more extension officers who will educate the farmers on the best and modern rubber farming practices, the use of technologies to mitigate low  quality and output. Extension service is crucial in modern day agriculture especially in regions like Nigeria were the farmers are mainly smallholders within the less educated demography. Rubber farming evolves with time, the farmers should be kept abreast with the new developments and adopt same in business for optimal yield, meet international standard which in turn guarantee high rate of return on investment. 


Related article:

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post