Whilst many plant species produce natural rubber, quality and economic considerations limit the major source of natural rubber to one specie, Hevea brasiliensis.
Rubber is a native of the Amazon basin and introduced to countries in the tropical belts of Asia and Africa during late 19th century.
It can be termed as the most far reaching and successful of introductions in plant history resulting in plantations over 9.3 million hectares.
The crop also known as the Para rubber tree after the Brazilian port of Para, is a quick growing, fairly sturdy, perennial tree of a height of 25 to 30 meters. The rubber tree may live for a hundred years or even more. But its economic life period in plantations averages 32 years – 7 years of immature phase and 25 years of productive phase.
The Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) has been at the forefront of financing rubber cultivation in Ghana with support from Government of Ghana, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the World Bank with Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) as a Technical Operator.
The bank has been the Financial Operator in four out of the five phases of the Rubber Outgrower Plantation Project (ROPP). The Phase I of the project was launched in 1995 and was co-financed by the Government of Ghana, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the World Bank.
This saw the development of 1,200 ha of rubber plantations for 400 Outgrower farmers within the Western Region. Phase II of the Project involved 500 new Outgrower farmers cultivating 2,855 ha of rubber and was co-financed by the Government of Ghana and AFD from year 2000 to 2003 with the Agricultural Development Bank as the Financial Operator.
Phase IV of the Project (2010-2012) involved a direct (Non-Sovereign) on-lending financing from AFD to Agricultural Development Bank and resulted in the cultivation of 10,700 hectares of rubber by 2,800 Outgrower farmers. ADB through a non-sovereign on-lending arrangement is presently financing the Phase V component of the project involving the cultivation of additional 7,000 hectares of rubber by 2,465 Outgrower farmers in over 400 communities in 33 districts across the Western, Central and Ashanti regions of Ghana.
ADB since 1995 has provided on-lending and other facilities totaling about Euro 32.0 million to support the rubber subsector. This has contributed to an increase in the area under cultivation from about 10,000 hectares in 1995 to about 57,000 in 2015.
The bank’s financial intermediation to the rubber value chain has resulted in production and processing of 12,572 metric tons of rubber valued at GHS20.87 million (US$5.22 million) in year 2015 for export . The annual production of rubber from farms financed by ADB is expected to increase to about 19,288 metric tons of dry rubber annually when production from the last two phases (IV and V) peaks.
In a bid to further improve the standard of living of rubber farmers, the bank has developed a specific product to cater for their non-farm needs. Non-farm loans are advanced to farmers to enable them carter for their domestic needs including payment of fees of their wards to the tertiary level.
The bank through the financing of these projects has also immensely contributed to the improvement of the environment through carbon sequestration.
While rubber plantations are known as a major source of honey, this enterprise has not been explored in Ghana. The bank stands in readiness to support farmers, entrepreneurs and researchers to exploit the unique potential of the rubber tree as a source of honey because of the extra floral nectars at the tip of the petiole.
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