Natural Rubber (NR) Hevea Brasiliensis, was introduced to Nigeria around 1895 from Brazil and by 1903 the first rubber estate was established. It was first introduced to Nigeria in Sakponba, Edo State in 1903, while the second phase was at Adiabo, Cross River State, in 1906. Its cultivation grew significantly in the fifties and sixties encouraged by the then Regional Government of Eastern and western Nigeria. On the processing side, changes in processing and quality improvement have occurred over the years from ribbed smoke sheet (RSS) to Technical Specified Rubber (TSR).
Natural Rubber is cultivated in almost all the Southern States (Edo, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Oyo, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Anambra, and Enugu), that lie within the Tropical Rainforest belt in Nigeria with an estimated land size of 18 million Hectares. Natural Rubber can also be cultivated in some states in northern Nigeria. These states includes Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, Adamawa, Kwara, and Niger. In Nigeria, rubber plantation can be established in 24 out of the 36 states.
In Nigeria, about 200,000 hectares of land has been cultivated and most of these are owned by Outgrowers. Plantation estate owners in Nigeria, in no particular order, are Pamol Nigeria Limited, Rubber Estates Nig. Limited, Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC, Imoniyame Holdings Ltd, Enghaut Industries Ltd, Sapele Integrated Company Ltd, Ogun State ADC, Royal International Farms & Estates Limited, Iyayi Rubber Company Ltd, and recently the SIAT group (Presco) to name but a few.
Before the 1970s, Agriculture was the pride of the Nigerian economy. During the period, it contributed over 60% of the gross Domestic Product (GDP). It also effectively provided employment for over 70% of the population and met the food, raw materials and foreign exchange requirement of the country. The Agricultural sector was an important economic sector in Nigeria’s economy.
During this period, rubber as an internationally traded Agricultural commodity that is in high demand all over the world, played a major role as a foreign exchange earner and contributor to the growth of our National economy. Rubber has over 50 by-products used in over 400,000 applications used in all sectors of the economy.
Most of the Outgrower’s farms have declined in size and productivity due to over aged trees, destruction of the plantation lands to pave way for housing / other alternative uses. But there have been a surge in rubber plantation development since 2006 with Rubber Estate Nig. Ltd (RENL) leading the pack in Nigeria with self-financed Outgrowers farms springing up in Ogun, Ondo, Delta and Edo States. Over 6,000 hectares were planted between 2006 and 2017.
However, with the advent of the petroleum exploration in Nigeria, the Agricultural sector which was once the pride of the Nation’s economy became neglected and the sector suffered serious setback, rubber was not an exception.