BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Natural rubber, Para rubber, Hevea Brasiliensis, is a commercial tree economically grown in plantations. Para rubber plant is useful for the latex that bleeds from the stem in the event of wounding. The product of the coagulated latex is rubber. Rubber is used in the manufacture a number of industrial products which range from tires, balls, containers, shoes to bands and a lot of other items. Rubber is important in the socio-economic life of many tropical developing nations, such as Nigeria and Brazil. Before the 60s, before the era of the oil boom, rubber was one of the agricultural commodities that were the main stay of Nigerian economy. The cultivation of rubber provided bulk employment for the people of the then Mid-West now known as the Edo and Edo States. However, rubber is not native to Nigeria. As the name suggests, it is an introduction from Brazil.
The rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis (Muell.) is a major crop for smallholders in Nigeria and an important commercial crop everywhere. It is grown for latex production, while rubber wood is considered as a secondary product. Therefore rubber is regarded as an agricultural crop. However, recent improvements in wood technology have led to rubber tree becoming increasingly important as a source of wood products (Evans and Turnbull 2004). Rubber wood has enjoyed an environmentally friendly reputation as a raw material, because it is a by-product of latex production, and when grown in renewable plantations, it can substitute timber from natural forests.
The natural range of Hevea, of the family Euphorbiaceae, covers the Amazon river basin and parts of the nearby uplands. Within the genus, Hevea brasiliensis (also known as para rubber) is one of the most widely distributed species. (Wycherley 1992). The rubber tree has always been known for its latex, which was used by the ancient civilizations of Central and South America. The commercial and large-scale exploitation of the tree did not begin until in the last quarter of the 19th century. With the arrival of cars, discovery of the pneumatic tyre and following increase in rubber prices, the produced amount of plantation-originated rubber was soon larger than that of wild rubber. At the same time, there were strong geo-political pressures to move the rubber production away from South America (Jones and Allen 1992). While searching for a cash crop for its eastern colonies, the British identified rubber as a potential crop for planting in Southeast Asia (Hong 1999). Rubber was first introduced in Asia in 1876, when seeds were first shipped from the Amazonas to the United Kingdom and further to Ceylon and planted there. In the following year, rubber trees were planted in Singapore and Malaya (Hong 1999). Although rubber was first an estate crop, local individual farmers soon adopted the crop and so they were drawn into the world commercial economy (Courtenay 1979).
Hevea brasiliensis is a tropical, deciduous tree, which grows 25-30 meters tall in its natural distribution area. Most of the planted trees are smaller, because they have been bred for the production of latex without taking much into account their wood production potential (Hong 1999). The bole of the rubber tree is usually straight but quickly tapered, and heavy branching is common. The branching pattern is very variable, and the leading stem can be dominant or soon divided into several heavy branches. The tree is easily damaged by strong winds (Lemmens et al. 1995). Clonal variation in wind-resistance has been observed, depending on types of branching (Cilas et al. 2004). Rubber tree matures at the age of seven to ten years, after which latex tapping can be started. When aiming at economic latex production, the life cycle of a rubber plantation is 30-35 years, after which replanting is necessary.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Natural rubber performed three main functions in the Nigerian economy; firstly it provided some of the foreign exchange and placed Nigeria in the world map as an exporter of rubber products. Lastly it provided employment for a sizeable segment of the rural populace. The situation in Nigeria presently pretends a drift from beings a major exporter of rubber products into becoming a net importer in the nearest future. The important question or issue is what the reasons are for the observed down turn or reduction in productivity of rubber
PURPOSE OF STUDY
This research was undertaken for the following reasons.
a. To ascertain the positive impact of rubber production
b. To find out the level of decline in rubber production
c. To find out the causes of decline in rubber production
d. And lastly to proffer solution to the problems resulting to this decline.
Considering the aforementioned purpose of this research, the following research questions are proposed as a guide in this study.
a. Does rubber production have any positive impact on the economic growth of the Nation?
b. What are the major reasons for decline in rubber production
c. How much of rubber plantations have been substituted with food crops or other cash crops.
d. What is the level of market forces impact on rubber production
e. Are farmers still interested in cultivating rubber
f. How willing are farmers to rehabilitate their rubber plantation.
g. What steps could be taken by farmers to facilitate rubber production.
h. What role could the government and non-government agencies play in encouraging rubber production.
This study was considered on the basis of the following assumptions;
Ho: Capital has no effect on the low production of rubber
H1: capital has effect on the low production of rubber
Ho: Government policies have effect on the productivity of rubber
H1: Government policies has no effect o the productivity of rubber
Ho: Poor market prices of rubber products has no effect on the production of rubber
H1: Poor market prices of rubber products ahs effect on the production of rubber
This research which is basically investigating will help to achieve the following:
a. Give details of factors responsible for low production of rubber
b. It will reveal the perception of farmers on the decline of rubber production.
c. It will help proffer solutions to these factors.
d. It will be a working tool for both government and non-governmental agencies on how to tackle the decline in rubber production.