The rubber industry in Ivory Coast has been hit by a sharp drop in prices and falling demand.
The development has forced farmers to switch to other crops, potentially preventing the country from reaching its goal of doubling output by 2020.
The world’s top cocoa grower, and also Africa’s leading rubber producer with an output up 7 percent to 340,000 tonnes in 2015 is bursting at the seams, in a rather uninspiring manner.
In Petit Badiane, north of the capital Abidjan, dozens of rubber plantations have been destroyed; they’ve been replaced by cassava fields.
Tiemoko Traore, a 42-year-old farmer like many in his village in the last decade, rushed to start a rubber farm. Like the others, he expected a positive inflow.
But that story has turned sour years on.
“For many people the problem is that the price of rubber has dropped, and it has changed everything, things are not the way they used to be. The farms are not maintained, farmers have no means to buy fertilizers and there are no equipment to maintain the farms,” said Traore.
Traore Mamadou, president of rubber farmers association Ivory Coast added his voice.
“Ivory Coast’s government needs to take measures to improve the price of rubber and then sensitise the population to give a positive image of the rubber industry. They also need to introduce courses on rubber farming, and have students learn about it in colleges, then we will slowly start seeing people returning back to rubber farming,” Traore said.
Ivorian rubber production has export partners in the European Union, China, India, Malaysia and the United States.