RWANDA - Irish potato farmers could soon start earning more from their produce, thanks to a new wholesale market that was inaugurated in Kigali on Tuesday.
The Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, said the market would address the challenge of exploitation by middlemen in the Irish potato trade and price fluctuations, as well as help streamline the Irish potato business in the country.
Potatoes farmers have always complained that they sell their produce at a lower price compared to the cost of production.
Kanimba also noted that potato trading in Rwanda has been facing two main challenges – a high disparity between the price dealers pay farmers for the produce, and the final price consumers pay for potatoes, especially in Kigali. “This has been a big challenge as we didn’t have an organised potato trading system,” he said.
He said the second challenge was lack of market, especially for season C, where the price would drop to a figure lower than what is invested into the production process.
“This poses challenges to the development of agricultural sector and improving farmers’ welfare in general.
However, this new system with a wholesale market will help to regulate the selling price in line with the produce. In case of a bumper harvest, the price will drop but in a way that it cannot go below the production cost,” Kanimba said.
According to the minister, the Regional Potatoes Trading Limited, a company with 446 shareholders that is involved in potato growing, trading, and transportation, will manage the operations of the Kigali potato wholesale market.
The market, located at Giticyinyoni in Nyarugenge District, will receive potatoes from 120-potato collection centres in Musanze, Burera, Nyabihu and Rubavu districts.
The main challenge facing the wholesale market presently is lack of warehouses.
However, Augustin Ntazinda, the Regional Potatoes Trading board chairperson, said they will invest Rwf6.3 billion in the construction of warehouses and other needed infrastructures (on a 2.5-hectare plot). Construction works will start soon, he added.
The project, collaboration between the Agriculture Ministry, that Trade and Industry, and private sector.
Speaking at the launch of the market, Tony Nsanganira, the State Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the facility will boost farmers’ morale and hence raise productivity and increase household incomes of sector players.
“It is also a reflection of the benefits that come with collaboration between the public and private sectors, which the government is championing to realise the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy,” Nsanganira said.
Rwanda produces about two million tonnes of potatoes per year.
Nsanganira said it is necessary to increase production and improve the Irish potato trading system so that farmers can understand that the crop is a valuable and profitable crop apart from ensuring their food security.
Irish potatoes are the second staple crop, after bananas. Felicien Semarembo, an Irish potato farmer from Burera District, said the facility would ensure a steady market for produce, which will motivate farmers to increase production.
PSF and the Ministry of Trade and Industry have already signed agreements with farmer co-operatives that will see them support sector stakeholders to improve the entire value and supply chain to increase quality and ensure farmers gain more from the efforts.
Rwanda announced in April that it planned to start exporting Irish potatoes to Zambia and South Sudan to maximise returns.
November 25, 2015; http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2015-11-19/194517/