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GREL to lose €550,000 as illegal miners encroach on rubber plantation

Ghana Rubber Estate Limited (GREL) could lose €550,000 of investment made on their plantation from 2010 to 2020 if illegal miners, or ‘galamsey’ operators, are not driven away from the company’s concession.

Perry Acheampong, Corporate Affairs Manager of GREL, told B&FT in an interview that should the concession be lost, the company will over the next 30 years lose as much as €3.5million in income. “This will be the cost of destruction if this galamsey activity is not stopped,” he said.

He explained that GREL is a natural rubber producer and has a concession size of 21,747 hectares (ha) in three regions – Western, Eastern and Central – of which 16,017ha is state land and the remaining portion of 5,730ha being Stool/Family lands.

According to him, the 16,017ha of State Land is part of the 36,000ha (90,000 acres) of land acquired by government through Executive Instruments 43, 44, 45, 46 and 58 of 1968. As a result of agitation by some communities in GREL’s operational areas, a Committee of Enquiry was set up by government in June 1993 to investigate these land disputes.

“A common strand that underlined the reasons for setting up the committee was the expansion of communities in GREL’s operational area,” he added.

Mr. Acheampong pointed out that the Report from the Committee of Enquiry into Ghana Rubber Estates Limited Land Dispute issued in October 1993 recommended for GREL to cede several hectares of land to the communities, and also to suspend some planned expansion programmes. Also, he said, government in 1997 granted GREL a lease of 15,000ha of land for 50 years for its operation as a result of the committee’s recommendations.

GREL, in a statement, said it has cultivated rubber on these state lands as part of its nucleus plantation, which is producing about 19,200 tonnes of dry rubber per annum and is expected to increase to 30,000 tonnes of dry rubber by 2025.

“Since 1995, the company, in partnership with the Government of Ghana, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), through Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and National Investment Bank (NIB) contributed to investment of €59.1million to help about 8,012 individuals to develop 30,155ha of rubber plantation under the Rubber Outgrower Plantation Project (ROPP). In addition to the outgrower project, GREL has also assisted 1,500 Self-Financed Outgrowers to develop about 14,845 ha of rubber plantation,” the statement added.

The statement mentioned that the estimated annual production from the outgrower plantation is 49,000 tons of dry rubber for 2020 and it is expected to increase to 100,000 tons of dry rubber by 2025.

GREL, till November 2019, operated a 10-tonne per hour rubber processing factory called GREL-APM located at Apimenim in the Ahanta West district of the Western Region, with an annual production of 50,000 tonnes.

GREL-APM, the statement said, having achieved its maximum processing capacity of 50,000 tonnes per annum and in fulfilment of GREL’s obligation under the Rubber Outgrower Plantation Project (ROPP) agreement to buy all the raw materials to ensure the sustainability of the project, the company in 2018 commenced the construction of a new rubber processing factory in Abura with a projected final capacity of 20T/hr by 2028 at an estimated cost of €62million.

The new project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry under the One District, One Factory Programme, was the construction of 5T/hr rubber processing factory called GREL TBU at a cost of €25,000,000 as the first phase, which started in September 2018 and was completed in November 2019.

The factory, the statement said, is estimated to produce 25,000 tonnes in 2020, increasing gradually to its peak of 80,000 tonnes in 2030. This will increase the total production of GREL from 70,000 tonnes per annum in 2020 to 120,000 tonnes per annum in 2030.

Also, the statement said total direct employment by GREL from its Nucleus and Factory Operations was 4,500 as at end of 2019, in addition to 3,500 indirect employees through the out-grower project (out of the 9,500 external farmers). Globally, the statement said, GREL is one of the major economical actors in the Western Region, providing livelihood support to more than 70,000 people.

As a responsible corporate entity, the statement said, GREL does not renege on the payment of its statutory obligations such as taxes and dividends to the government of Ghana (which owns 25% shares in GREL), its ministries, departments and agencies, as well as undertaking various corporate social responsibility projects within its operational areas.

“The forceful take-over of GREL lands by several communities for galamsey activities is an act of illegality that has to be condemned, and the instigators or perpetrators brought to book. These illegal invasions of GREL lands will certainly affect directly the raw material base needed for the two factories, and also defeats the purpose for the support GREL had from the One District, One Factory initiative for the construction of phase-one of its new rubber processing factory.

“It also puts at risk Ghana Rubber Estates Limited, since availability of land is very key to its existence; hence, without the availability of land for its nucleus plantation GREL will not be able to operate. We hope the necessary steps will be taken to address this problem so as to sustain the rubber industry in Ghana,” the statement concluded.

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