RWANDA - Regional horticulture industry players have been challenged to embrace innovative approaches to increase production and satisfy the current market demand.
According to experts attending a three-day international horticulture conference in Kigali, the demand for horticulture products is growing on the global market, which calls for new production methods to enhance output and meet this demand.
Speaking at the event yesterday, Role Snelder, the AgriPro Focus, acting managing director, said there is need to create strong market linkages and trade relations that will help improve the region’s horticulture produce and make it more competitive.
Snelder urged stakeholders to embrace value-addition to attract more buyers and penetrate different markets.
The conference under the theme, “Promoting innovation and trade in horticulture” brought together over 500 horticulture industry stakeholders from seven countries, including The Netherland, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and the DR Congo.
It was organised by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), the Private Sector Federation, the Rwanda Horticulture Interprofessional Organisation and AgriPro Focus Rwanda.
Josephine Makondo, the chairperson of the Zambia Chamber of Commerce, said a vibrant horticulture sector could help cushion developing countries during turbulence in global prices for key commodities, like minerals.
Makondo argued that it is vital for regional countries to invest more in the horticulture industry and related infrastructure, noting that it is the best alternative to boost exports, especially among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) bloc.
“The challenges the sector is currently experiencing should be looked at as opportunities to stimulate investments and innovative solutions that will help it grow,” Makondo said.
High cost of transport and rudimentary farming methods still threaten the sector’s growth.
“Non-tariff barriers, including delays at border posts, poor infrastructure and cold storage facilities equally threaten the growth of the sector,” she said.
Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources Geraldine Mukeshimana urged stakeholders to increase production and embrace value-addition
“Production and marketing channels are ever changing and mainly dictated by consumer preferences, we must look for innovative ways to respond to these changes,” Minister Mukeshimana noted.
We also must support innovative ideas that will boost the horticulture industry, she added.
The horticulture sector contributes around 3 per cent of GDP, and covers about 6 per cent of the arable land in the country.
Amb George William Kayonga, the NAEB chief executive officer, said government will continue to invest the kind of infrastructure that will help propel the sector to the next level.
Kayongo called for increased public-private sector partnerships to boost the sector’s capacity to contribute to the well being of farmers and make it more competitive on the international stage.
Benjamin Gasamagera, chairman, PSF, said that lack of proper packaging materials is affecting the industry’s competitiveness.
The Netherlands ambassador, Frederique de Man, called for more investment in value chains to strengthen regional trade of horticulture products.
The envoy urged the regional horticulture sector stakeholders to work together and find ways to improve the industry’s performance.
Rwanda’s horticulture sector is expected to fetch about $9 million this year, up from $3 million in 2010.
November 25, 2015; http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2015-11-27/194756/