Rwanda on track with food security – Minagri

  • By Collins Mwai
  • December 31, 2013
Women in Kirehe District sort maize grains during a past communal post-harvest handling. The New Times/ File.

The ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) has reassured Rwandans that the country is on track with regards to food security.

“Although we had a three-week dry spell in October that was not good for the Eastern and Southern provinces, we were able to recover most of the crops and planting went on in November. Since then the rains have been good, except for the last one week,” Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Agriculture minister, said yesterday.

Food prices to remain stable

She said there are no anticipated problems in terms of food pricing with the ongoing rains and farming methods in use.

“We are not worried because of the crops we planted this year and the use of fertilisers which many farmers had access to thanks to support from local Saccos (savings and credit cooperatives) and local leaders. The only way prices could start increasing is if the rains don’t continue but there are enough reserves to support if necessary,” the minister said.

Dr Kalibata urged farmers to hold stocks at household and community level in areas where the rains were received late, citing districts such as Bugesera.

“In Bugesera, they had community reserves that they are using now. The ministry monitors and when the need goes beyond the community reserves, the strategic reserves are used,” Dr Kalibata said.

Farmers had to replant

The minister’s remarks were in response to FewsNet (the Famine Early Warning Systems Network) which provides early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity across the world, which said the below-average harvests in June-July in the country and in neighbouring countries have caused a rise in prices of staple foods.

The food security update, released recently said the food prices impact  was beginning to be felt and were likely to limit food access for the poor and market dependant households.

There has been notable increase in food prices, especially in the City of Kigali, as well as districts in the vicinity.

The dry spell experienced in October put farmers about a month behind schedule as the majority had to replant their crops.

The food security update also detailed other factors that are likely to cause the food prices to go up.

The slightly high levels of rainfall after the October dry spell were beneficial to some crops that had experienced dry spell but also caused crop damage to bananas in parts of Rwamagana and Kirihe districts.

Maize caterpillars and aphids which have been prevalent all year were boosted by moisture conditions. These factors, the report predicts, are likely to take a toll on the food prices and, in turn, food security.

A mini survey by The New Times reveals an upward trend in the pricing of most foodstuff in Kigali markets.

The prices of Irish potatoes in most markets across the City of Kigali as of December 24 stood at Rwf250 per kilogramme up from Rwf190 earlier in the year.

Bananas (plantains), too, have had a steady increase in price, from Rwf165 in August to about Rwf220 in early December.

Beans stood between Rwf100 to Rwf150 a kilogramme in the past few months.

Maize prices stable

Traders in Kimironko and Nyabugogo markets foresee the prices could go up in the first two months of the coming year.

The price of maize flour has been relatively stable, at Rwf670 per a kilogramme, while that of peas has exhibited the same trend as bananas, Irish potatoes and beans.

Maize flour prices remained stable because maize was not as seasonal like other crops, according to farmers.

Some traders noted an upward trend in the pricing of most food items and there is more competition to obtain stocks they previously obtained with ease.

Sandrine Umurungi, who operates a stall in Kimironko Market, said the quantities from their suppliers have been slowly decreasing with the suppliers citing reduced supplies from farmers. 

“For the last three months few food prices have gone down or remained stable if any. Although the quantities supplied are slightly lesser than in previous months. Increased prices from our suppliers who are the direct contacts with farmers have caused us to also adjust out pricing,” Umurungi said.

Kigali hard-hit

Pacifique Mugiraneza, a middleman, said the increase in price seems to have affected the City of Kigali more than other towns across the country.

“The prices in the city seem to have gone up faster than other towns across the country. In the Eastern and Southern Provinces, it has changed very slowly that most are yet to take notice,” Mugiraneza said.

He added that the impact could have been felt more in the city due to the population and increased demand, which could have led to competition.

Earlier in March, a survey conducted jointly by the World Food Programme and the Government of Rwanda found that the country had made steady progress in improving food security and nutrition over the past few years.

The report indicated that only one out of five Rwandan households had unacceptable food consumption trend and could be considered food-insecure.

Out of the total population, only 4 per cent had poor food consumption scores.

“During the previous year (2012), the World Food Programme  bought 23,000 metric tonnes of food in Rwanda, mostly for operations in neighboring countries. This is a clear sign that Rwanda is more than self-sufficient for its staple crops,” Jan Delbaere, World food Programme’s deputy country director, said while releasing the findings.

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