Akpan Etukudoh Asare
The minister of state for industry, trade and investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar has sent two delegations from her ministry twice to witness groundbreaking and inspect ongoing work at the $5m rubber processing plant in Biakpan community in Cross River
She expressed happiness over the establishment of the rubber processing plant by a private firm called Royal Intern Farms and Estates Ltd, a big time player in the rubber sector.
The delegations which witnessed the actual installation of the heavy industrial machines at the rubber factory described the investment by the farm as a very bold attempt at impacting the national economy.
She said that the investment will generate massive employment of Nigerians as well as foreign exchange to the country.
She acknowledged the challenges which private owners of rubber plantations in Nigeria are facing such as high cost of operations, saying these result from epileptic power supply in areas of production, low technology and use of crude implements for tapping rubber, paucity of tractors as well as poor access to funds.
General manager of the firm, Mr. Usen Umoh praised the minister for the concern and encouragement extended to them and disclosed that their rubber plantation sits on a 2187 hectares of land, and has began replanting another 1000 hectares of young rubber trees.
According to him, they have already provided employment for 500 Nigerians with potentials to engage another 600 directly and indirectly.
Umoh however appealed to the federal government to include rubber among the five cash crops which are to benefit from the 9% single digit interest bank loans incentive from the government, adding that rubber has more challenges but with greater benefits to the economy.
“Rubber is a longstanding economic crop which should be accommodated in any incentive consideration. We can generate employment for nearly 100,000 directly and indirectly in the Niger Delta region which can certainly go a long to calm restive youths as well as earn huge foreign exchange “.
“Rubber has more challenges yet with greater benefits even though it has about seven years gestation period. Yet, too, it has generational value. So we need more assistance and intervention from government.
He said there are 207 rubber farmers in Cross River State, and called for the resuscitation of the Presidential Committee on Rubber.