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March 19, 2012

Some Ivorian farmers abandon cocoa to cultivate rubber trees

An increasing number of farmers in Ivory Coast are leaving the perceived difficulties of cultivating cocoa, the country's main cash crop, to instead grow rubber trees, which are considered to be a more secure source, less troublesome source of income.

This is according to a news report by Reuters, which says the cocoa industry hopes that reforms currently underway assure better prices for the crop's farmers will help stem the tide to cultivating alternative crops.

Liberia is the African country most often associated with rubber, but Ivorian rubber production reached an all-time high of 234,000 tonnes in 2011, from 183,000 tonnes in 2007.

An Ivorian rubber industry group said rubber was grown on 318,000 hectares of land in 2011, compared to
304,000 hectares in 2010. An additional 15,000 hectares of rubber trees are to be planted in 2012.

The Singapore-based International Rubber Study Group said the Ivory Coast had a plan to achieve 600,000 tonnes of rubber by the end of 2020, for which planting would have to be in place by 2013.

African Agriculture

The news report says for some farmers, rubber trees are seen as a safer bet than cocoa. They provide a more regular monthly income than seasonal cocoa, and rubber prices are more stable.

Some farmers are said to be cutting down their aging cocoa trees to replace them with rubber seedlings. An cocoa to replace the country's old cocoa bushes with new plantings that are higher yielding and more pest-resistant is underway. But whether this will slow the trend of farmers diversifying to rubber will depend on cocoa prices.


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