The Federal Government has called for better collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the rubber industry with a view to exploring the economic potential of the agricultural commodity for national development.
It attributed the decline in rubber production to the dearth of modern machines necessary for converting the raw material into value-added products of international standard.
The acting Executive Director of the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria, Dr. Aireguamen Aigbodion, gave the position on Wednesday during the inauguration of prototype rubber sheet processing and effluent management factories in Benin, Edo State, and Ogo Ikilibi in Delta State.
He explained that the factories were inaugurated to bring about economic empowerment of Nigerians in line with the policy of the Federal Government on poverty reduction.
He noted that the initiative was the beginning of efforts by the institute to develop affordable technology aimed at adding value to field latex, which he said accounted for over 70 per cent of rubber produced in the country.
The factories comprising lohashilpi machines, a smoke house and pounding system for treating liquid effluents discharged.
Aigbodion said, “This machine has the capacity to process approximately 500 sheets per hour of Gd. 1 RSS that conforms to international standards. Therefore, it is versatile and can serve a cluster of rubber smallholders (farmers).”
While inaugurating the factories, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Shehu Ahmed, explained that the effort was an encouragement for rubber farmers and those involved in rubber business.
Ahmed, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Bernard Ukatta, said, “Rubber has not really benefited from the Federal Government support and this is because rubber commodity association members do not come to Abuja to identify with the government.
“As a ministry, rubber is one of the commodities we are promoting and the ministry is partnering the institute in the implementation of the common front for commodity.”
On his part, the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Prof. Yusuf Abubakar, noted that the research institute was undergoing a reform aimed at strengthening its obligations, especially to rubber farmers.