Thursday, June 28, 2012
Rubber exports seen soaring to US$250m
Ghana is confident of earning nearly US$250million from the export of rubber by 2020, increasing the country's foreign-exchange revenue from the crop.
Presently, 35,000 hectares of land are under cultivation, expected to produce 63,000 tonnes of the crop. As of 2009, approximately 11,255 hectares of land were under cultivation, producing over 16,000 metric tonnes. The rubber plant has a productive lifespan of 35 years.
The country has moved from 1,200 hectares of rubber plantations in 1995 to 35,000 hectares, helping to create employment for some 100,000 people.
About 95 percent of the country’s rubber produce is exported to 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.
Mr. Joseph Baidoo-Williams, Head of the Perennial Crops Development Unit at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), in an interview with the B&FT, said: “The rubber sector is doing fairly well due to the ready market for the raw material, coupled with government's support for the farmers.
“Government has identified the rubber sector as holding tremendous potential to create jobs and reduce poverty and as such is giving it the necessary support to enable it contribute to the development of the economy.
“Recent trends in world prices suggest that rubber production when properly nurtured could easily become a major foreign exchange earner for the country.”
He explained that 7.4 million euros has been disbursed to the National Investment Bank (NIB) to finance the cost of development of out-grower plantations, while 757,400 euros has additionally been disbursed to the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) to maintain and ensure sustainability of the farms.
“The contribution of rubber cultivation to employment-generation is enormous as it currently provides employment for over 37,083 farmers through its Rubber Out-grower Scheme. It has a potential of employing an additional 2,250 tappers for every 9,000 hectares, of which 25 percent will be females.”
He said 10,500 hectares of rubber trees are envisaged to be planted between 2010 and 2014, and this is expected to employ an additional 2,750 farmers. “The rubber industry has minimised the rural urban drift, increased income levels of farmers and their relatives, regularised the rainfall pattern, and created employment opportunities.”
Figures at MoFA indicate that in 2006, rubber exported to France was 13,618.36 tonnes, rising to 15,318.16 tonnes in 2007. It however fell to 14,132.12 tonnes in 2008 due to the cutting down of the old rubber trees and their replanting by the Ghana Estates Limited (GREL), the main industrial operator in the rubber industry.
Government has been sourcing financing to support the industry. In August 2006, it secured a loan from the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), a French development agency, and Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW), a German development bank.
AFD provided 23 million euros while KfW provided 6 million euros to support the out-grower project in the country. The money is to be used to finance the third phase of a 7,000-hectare rubber plantation project. It will also be used to offer credit lines to about 1,800 farmers over a five-year period.
The first phase of this project started in 1995 and ended in 1999 after 400 farmers planted rubber trees on more than 1,200 hectares of land. The second phase was for 500 farmers who planted over 2,800 hectares of the crop.
Part of the fund will be used for the construction of 210 kilometres of farm roads and 77 kilometres of feeder roads to improve access to project areas and ensure easy access to production and marketing areas.