Ivorian rubber output seen up 5% in 2011

RUBBER output from Africa’s top supplier Ivory Coast will rise 5 % this year to 238,000 tonnes as high prices tempt farmers to plant more acreage despite a political crisis, a top industry official said.

The country produced 227,000 tonnes in 2010, up more than 10 % from the previous year and beating initial forecasts of 218,000 tonnes, said Akpangi Attobra, general secretary of the Ivorian natural rubber association, APROMAC. “As a result of high prices and programs like seed grants, we are registering lots of new rubber tree land every year,” he said in an interview , explaining the new 2011 rubber production forecast.

He said a post-election standoff in the country had triggered a refugee outflow from Ivory Coast’s southern rubber regions that had tightened the labour market for area plantations and complicated transport. But he said the political problems would not prevent production from rising. Agricultural analysts have said Ivory Coast’s rubber sector is benefitting from low profit margins in its cocoa industry – the world’s largest – which has tempted farmers to seek crops that can provide more stable returns.

Attobra said China, India and Malaysia were major buyers of Ivorian rubber last season and were offering farmers long-term supply contracts and aid to processing plants. “They are pushing hard,” he said. He said 126,000 hectares of land were producing rubber and that the state was seeking to renew 300,000 hectares of existing plantations and plant another 300,000 hectares by 2018. Ivory Coast rubber exports totalled 246,996 tonnes in 2010 – a figure that included some rubber produced in neighbouring Liberia and trucked to Ivory Coast for shipment from the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro.

Source: The African Report