The Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) is confident of purchasing approximately 19,500 tonnes of dry rubber from over 3000 farmers in the Western, Ashanti, Eastern and the Central regions by close of 2016 production year.
This will be a 4,600 tonne increase in the company’s purchases last year, and is in keeping with its aim of increasing production capacity to more than 45,000 tonnes per annum by the year 2020.
The company will inject over GHC 53,834,480 to the businesses of the farmers. Last year it purchased about 14,908 tonnes of dry rubber from about 2000 farmer.
GREL’s Outgrower Plantation Project Director, Mr Emmanuel Akwasi Owusu, told the B&FT during a tour of the company’s plantation in the Western Region that: “Because our production is skyrocketing, this year our target is to buy 19,500 tonnes of dry rubber, and this is a big volume.”
Rubber, Mr Owusu said, is a unique tree crop that can really alleviate poverty among rural farmers especially women, since every month the farmer will earn some income from the cultivation
Investing in the cultivation of natural rubber accomplishes three main functions in the country’s economy, he said, including the provision of raw materials for agro-based industries, foreign exchange earnings and ranking the country in the global map as a net exporter of rubber, and the creation of jobs for a sizeable segment of the Ghanaian rural farming population.
The company said its special self-financing scheme which was implemented recently has attracted over 9,000 additional farmers into the cultivation of the tree crop, including business executives and other professionals.
“We have lawyers, business executives, senior world-bank officials investing in the cultivation of rubber as an additional income, but these are financing the farms themselves because they know that this is a good investment,” Mr Owusu said.
“Even now, we see that the income levels of the local farmers have improved, which has also improved their standard of living; in 2015, for instance, even when the rubber prices were not good, a farmer was able to receive a net income of GHC 8,200 every month from his farm.”
The economic importance of the crop and its ability to improve livelihoods in farming communities cannot be overemphasized, Mr Owusu said.
“When a farmer starts the farm, you will always be doing maintenance till you start tapping for the next 35 years. The farmers always have access to credit because there is regular income in their accounts, and the banks are willing to pay them extra money.”
Whilst Cocoa, oil palm, coconut and others are seasonal, Mr Owusu said rubber brings in money every month.
“So that is one unique thing about rubber; every time the farmer has money.”
He explained: “We go to the farmers’ field to buy rubber but about 90 percent of the rubber is being developed for the farmers for now, but we have a plan of getting closer to them so that we reduce the distance from their farms to the factory.
The company supplies farmers with all the tree crop equipment during the tapping period. This is designed in such a way that it can continue for six years. The company also provides credit facilities to the farmers to support them in their maintenance; this helps cushion the farmer, but it is all part of the loan.”
In recent years, the economic value of rubber has grown rapidly with its foreign exchange earnings shooting up among the country’s export commodities, although lack of policy has hindered its growth.
In most countries of the world where rubber is planted, it is done mainly on smallholder basis; it is the smallholders that are more in it than commercial outfits. But in Ghana, the case is different, as the bulk of production comes from commercial outfits.
The rubber producing countries in Africa only produce four per cent of the total global production, while Thailand, the largest rubber producer in the world, produces 27 per cent.
Ivory Coast, which is the largest producer in Africa, produces 50 per cent of the total African production, while Nigeria produces only 11 per cent, with Ghana producing about 19,134 metric tonnes in 2009.
Ghana has the capacity for the production of 18 million hectares of rubber annually, out of which a measly 13, 500 hectares are being cultivated presently.
As of 2009, approximately 11,855 hectares of land had been cultivated under out grower schemes financed by the government. The rubber plant has a productive lifespan of 35 years.
The country moved from 12,000 hectares of rubber plantations in 1995 to 35,000 hectares, helping to create employment for some 100,000 people.
Rubber production increased from 9,300 metric tonnes in 2000 to 19,134 metric tonnes in 2009, recording an increase of 74 percent over the period.
About 95 percent of the country’s rubber produce is exported to China, France, Turkey, East Africa and South Korea. Ghana also exports to neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Currently, the traditional rubber-growing regions are the Western and Central Regions, but the northern parts are also being explored for their potential to cultivate the crop.
Strong global economic growth in recent years, especially in the rapidly developing economies of China and India, has increased demand for rubber significantly.
The global demand for natural rubber has been consistently on the rise; global consumption of natural and synthetic rubber, pegged at 12.3 and 16.8 million tonnes, respectively, in 2015, has increased 3.1 percent and 0.9 percent from 2014. It is projected to reach 15 and 19.4 million tonne by 2020.
China, the United States, Japan, India and Germany are the main rubber consumers, accounting for 56.8 percent of global consumption.
Rubber is one of the most commonly used plant products in virtually every industry, from aviation to healthcare, education, sports to engineering, among others.
From elastic bands, condoms, car tires, or pencil erasers, boots, raincoats, rubber stamps and waterproof shoes to dishwashers and swimming caps, rubber actually finds its way into tens of thousands of different products.
The rubber latex is useful for a wide range of industries and products. It is used for adhesive, insulating, friction tape, cement, crepe rubber used for footwear and insulating blanket. The rubber is also used in tires, hose, domestic clothes wringers to printing presses.
Rubber latex is used in the manufacture of articles such as cushions, balls, air hoses and balloons. Its ability to resist water and most fluid chemicals has resulted in its use in diving gear, rainwear and chemical and medicinal tubing. It is also used as a lining for railroad tank cars, storage tanks and processing equipment.
There are so many reasons why farmers must engage in rubber farmer. Among others also include a huge industrial demand expected to keep the price of rubber high for decades.
It provides high income, a high cost of synthetic rubber, low investment cost, long period of productivity, has a wide range of adaptability, provides regular income; environment sustainability, high value of rubber wood and allows inter cropping of food and cash crops for higher farm income.
The commodity has been commonly used for over 1000 years and at a point in time, came entirely from natural sources.
Rubber latex is extracted from rubber trees. The economic life period of rubber trees in plantations is estimated around 32 years with up to 7 years of immature phase and about 25 years of productive phase.
The rubber producing countries in Africa only produce four per cent of the total global production, while Taiwan, the largest rubber producer in the world produces 27 per cent. Ivory Coast which is the largest producer of rubber in Africa produces 50 per cent of the total Africa production, while Nigeria produces only 11 per cent with Ghana producing about 19,134 metric tonnes in 2009.
Source: B& FT