The national president of the Natural Rubber Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NARPPMAN), Mr Peter Igbinosun, has cried out over the ageing and economically non-viability of all the natural rubber estates in the Niger Delta region.
He said there was the need for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to show interest because over 85 per cent of these multinational firms are in the region and can have dire consequences to national economy if there is no intervention.
Speaking in Calabar, Igbinosun said, “Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Rivers and Bayelsa states produce over 85 per cent of the total rubber in Nigeria.’’ He added that most of the rubber factories were also located in this region, such as Michelin Plantations, now Rubber Estates Nigeria Limited, Pamol Ltd, Enghaut Plantation Ltd, Okomu rubber Plantation, Royal Farms and Estates Ltd, Imoniyamen Holdings Ltd etc.
“Most of the plantations were planted in the early 1960s by the defunct Eastern Region and are no longer economically viable due to old age and outdated clones,’’ he said.
Igbinosun said many of the factories were either moribund or producing less than capacity due to insufficient raw materials. This, according to him, has led many to close shops and workers losing their jobs and throwing more youths into unproductive activities in the region.
He said his association would like to collaborate with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and other government establishments to revamp the dying rubber plantations and plant new ones in parts of the country.
Igbinosun stressed the urgency for early intervention in order to save the rubber subsector.
He reiterated that they were concerned operators and contributors to the development of the country’s economy, adding that the development of rubber and its value chain in the Niger Delta region should be of much concern to NDDC.
According to him, rubber is one of the country’s cash crops that have over 50 by-products and its values cut across all sectors of the economy.
He said rubber was a major foreign exchange earner and contributor to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as well as a massive employer of labour. It is also a non-perishable commodity.
“It is a strategic raw material because it cannot be replaced by synthetic rubber in most important applications,’’ he said.
He expressed worry that despite the attributes and premium that highly industrialised nations place on rubber, the Nigerian government has, by act of omission or commission, paid less emphasis to its development.
“The need for the NDDC to intervene to enable the out-growers and smallholders rejuvenate rubber plantations and develop new ones with improved clones is a matter of urgency in order for the region to maintain a comparative advantage of being the rubber hub of Nigeria.
The need to establish nurseries, plantations, factories and cottage industries is of paramount importance considering the socio-economic impact it will have on the people of the region in particular and the country in general,’’ he added.
SOURCE: DAILY TRUST