An international expert on on Ribbed Smoked Sheet (RSS) Development has presented his finding on the rubber sector in Liberia.
Dr. L.M.K Tillekeratne who is assigned to Liberia by Adam Smith International under the GROW-Liberia program is in the country to develop the production process for Ribbed Smoked Sheet Rubber (RSS) to meet international standards.
According to the international expert, starting from latex collection, improving processing techniques to convert, the rubber into quality RSS, sorting, grading and packaging; improving machine layout and equipment set-up to manufacture quality RSS, while minimizing the cost of production.
Expanding on the issue of minimizing, Dr. Tillekeratne identified ways and means of minimizing environmental pollution. He said irrespective of the country where it was planted, the Natural rubber (Heveabrasiliances) tree produce latex of the same quality, but, due to not following correct agronomic practices, the productivity of rubber farms anywhere in the world drops, thereby making the plantation economically not viable.
He furthered, “Due to not following latest developed technology during processing of latex, RSS produced fall into low grades and that due to following old techniques during processing, cost of manufacture goes up.
He added that three decades ago the average annual productivity of rubber clones in the world was below 800kg /ha (Best clones planted prior to 1985, viz PB 86, RRIM600, GT 1 yielded maximum 1,200 kg/ha). “Thanks to the efforts of plant breeders, now there are clones yielding 3,500 – 4,000 kg/ha Eg.
Dr. Tillekeratne said the average annual world productivity at present has gone up to over 1,300 kg/ha (India 1,800, Vietnam 1,700, Malaysia 1,550 and Ivory coast 1500 kg/ha), while annual productivity of rubber farms in Liberia is only about 480 kg/ha.
He among other things concluded that from those observations it is clear that farmers in Liberia have had no access to this new technology developed by IRRDB member countries. He said those who supply them rubber plants for planting and the necessary agronomic advice have kept them in the dark, without exposing them to the modern technology developed since 1984.
“If a quality plant of a high yielding clone is not planted, the farmer has to suffer for 30 years with a passenger,” Dr. Tillekeratne added.