Wednesday, April 16, 2014


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Providing employment for a large section of the population, agriculture remains a major source of economic activity in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, agriculture has remained the largest sector of the economy.  It generates employment for about 70% of Nigeria’s population and contributes about 40% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with crops accounting for 80%, livestock 13%, forestry 3% and fishery 4%.

Before now, Nigeria was known for the export of the three major cash crops; palm oil, groundnuts and rubber; but presently, little or nothing is heard about these sources of foreign exchange. The country’s sole dependence on crude oil has dominated the economy and rendered it unproductive. Oil has become the major export Nigeria is recognized for in the world economy.

Figures obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics indicates that Nigeria earned Nigeria earned about N305.1billion within the first three months of 2013 and N158.38 billion from Natural rubber. Nigeria has a comparative trade advantage on rubber production and exportation besides crude oil.

Hevea brasiliensis drives the world – quite literally. Hevea brasiliensis is the world’s number one source for natural rubber, and though the primary use is in vehicle tires, it has hundreds of consumer and industrial applications. These include uses in building and bridge construction, medicine, personal care and transportation, and in many cases, it cannot be replaced by synthetic, or petroleum-based, rubber.

Most natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, comes from latex, the milky tree sap of Hevea brasilensis. The trees are tapped by making an incision in the bark of the tree and collecting the sap in a bucket – a very low-tech process and much like the way maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup. The latex is then refined into natural rubber.

The harvesting (Tapping) or rubber is done during the dry season. Tapping normally takes place early in the morning, when the internal pressure of the tree is highest. A good tapper can tap a tree every 20 seconds on a standard half-spiral system, and a common daily "task" size is between 450 and 650 trees. Trees are usually tapped alternate or third daily, although there are many variations in timing, length and number of cuts.

Nigeria exports about 60,000 tons of natural rubber annually. The production of natural rubber in Nigeria which began in 1894 with the exploitation of indigenous wild rubber of Funtumia elastica was found to be the best source of plant because of its singular ability to renew its bark and thus ensure sustained harvest. It was introduced into Nigeria from Kew Gardens, England around 1895 with the first rubber estate planted at Sapele in 1903 and a second one at Nkisi in the then Eastern region in 1912. By 1925, some 1000 hectares of European owned estates existed in the South – western Nigeria.

Rubber is grown in Edo, Delta, Ondo, Ogun, Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers, Ebonyi and Bayelsa States where the amount of rainfall is about 1800 mm to 2000 mm per annum. Rubber requires a well-drained, sandy loam, well-aerated permeable subsoil in which its root system can proliferate.Rubber cannot stand a waterlogged soil. A land drained to at least 1.2m is adequate for rubber. Soil rich in nitrogen are preferred although phosphorous and potassium must also be available as well as trace elements.Temperatures between 24 and 35 or more are
needed for proper growth of rubber.

Natural rubber performs three main functions in our national economy; these are the provision of raw materials for the agro-based industries, it provides foreign exchange earnings and places Nigeria in the world map as a net exporter of rubber and lastly, it offers employment to a sizeable segment of the Nigerian farming rural.

The demand-supply gap of natural rubber is predicted to significantly widen in the course of the current decade and likely to end up in a shortage of as much as one million tonnes by 2020, according to estimates. The gap between the forecasted productions of natural rubber (12.5 million tons) and forecasted consumption (13.6 million tons) will be 1.1 million tons.

Factors to consider before cultivating rubber tree in Nigeria includes land, choice of variety, time of planting, seed rate, seed dressing, spacing and other agricultural practice.

From the above, it is clear that a large and sustainable exist for rubber tree cultivation and production in Nigeria for both local and export market.

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