BENIN CITY – As part of efforts to reposition the economy of Edo State, the state government has initiated a policy framework to re-vamp the rubber sub-sector of the state economy.

The draft policy titled, “Edo State Rubber Policy” as put together by the Edo State Rubber Development Strategy Committee which was inaugurated by the State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki in July 2021 came up with a draft which was reviewed in Benin City recently by stakeholders in the industry.

The stakeholders were made up of experts in the industry were drawn from the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN), Rubber Estate of Nigeria Limited (RENL), National Rubber Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NARPPMAN), Okomu Oil, Presco PLC, Edo State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Edo State Oil Palm Programmes and the African Palm Oil Initiative (APOI).

Applauding the state for taking the lead to come up with such policy framework for rubber sub-sector in Nigeria, the Managing Director of the Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO), Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi who doubles as Secretary of the committee noted that it is on record that Edo State always take the lead on certain matters that advance the course of Nigeria.

He said that being the first state to come up with a policy document to develop the rubber industry in Nigeria, positions the state well as it was done in oil palm.

According to him, “Edo State is always the first state in doing certain things to promote Nigeria. It is not easy to be the first to delve into certain things and we are not scared to do so. What we have achieved in this workshop is to show that we (Edo State) can lead the way.

“We are not afraid as a state to actually lead the way. We want to see that this policy is not kept in our shelve. We will ensure that it is implemented. Most especially as we have all agreed that we need to drive rubber plantation, production, processing and even export in order to promote the economy.

“We must be able to assist the already existing businesses which are playing in this space,” he added.

In goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Peter Aikhuomobhogbe expressed happiness over the development and reaffirmed the hope that with the progress being made in the oil palm under the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), rubber has also attracted a similar attention, adding that there was a plan to increase the oil palm by 120 -hectares of land in the next 3-years.

According to him, the objectives of the workshop included, brainstorm on how to increase rubber production in the state; how Edo can benefit from the world rubber trade; the possibility of creating more jobs and the possibility of having more big players in the industry coming into the state.

“If we are doing 120-hectares for oil palm and now looking at 250-hectares in the next three or four years, we can do same for rubber. We are going to learn a lot from what ESOPP is already doing to oil palm.

“As we know, Edo is a home for rubber. Therefore, the strategy for us is to develop a plan among other things to identify all stakeholders in the value chain, not only to expand rubber, but to also see how to increase yield of what we already have.”

In their remarks, the Chairman of the Edo State Rubber Development Strategy Committee, Mr. Enotie Ogbebor; the President of National Rubber Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NARPPMAN), Mr. Peter Igbinosun and Dr. Timothy Esekhade, the Director in RRIN, noted that Nigeria was built and developed with monies from cash crops which have suffered total neglect as a result of the discovery of the crude oil in 1967 which has brought the country’s economy to an end in recent times.

He placed on record that the history of rubber development in Nigeria would not be complete without mentioning that it was first started in Sakponba in Edo State in 1903 and as such, the state was then the rubber hub of Nigeria.

Today, he said that countries like Malaysia, India and Thailand are together currently generating over 400-million employments and an annual income of 160-billion dollars.

Also, he noted that rubber is proven to have some of the largest value chain, with over 50-bye-products which, when given the proper attention, can transform the economy of Nigeria and employ millions of people.