Natural rubber (Hevea brasiliensis Müell.-Arg.) production, processing, and rubber wastes utilization: challenges and prospects for economic diversification and sustainable development of Nigeria.
Over 80% of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings come from the sales of crude petroleum. Nigeria has a landmass of 910,768 km2 with 38.97% arable, while 3.46% is suitable for the cultivation of permanent cash crops such as rubber, cocoa and palm trees. High-latex yields (3,000-3,500 kg dry natural rubber (NR)/ha/year) of Nigeria's hybrid rubber seedlings is a preferred choice to most foreign species (900-1,600 kg dry NR/ha/year) for cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, Nigeria's rubber export of US$41.8 million for global sales of US$13.1 billion was considered low compared to other African leading producers (Côte d'Ivoire-US$752.6 million, and Liberia-US$126.2 million). The present government's efforts to increase rubber cultivation at an annual growth rate of 5.7%, could be instrumental to diversifying its revenue base as demand for rubber-derived products is on a global increase. The challenges faced by small-scale rubber farmers are being addressed by government through the provision of affordable credit facilities and improved genetic seedlings for planting. Potential markets exist for micronized rubber powders sourced from waste tyres for the production of value-added fine chemicals, road construction, athletic and recreational facilities etc. Also, slurries and biogas obtained from natural rubber processing plants can also act as catalysts for sustainable development of the economy.