Lovers of fruits imported from South Africa will have to wait longer before they can find them on the stalls in supermarkets as there is no timeframe within which the current ban on agricultural produce from the Southern African nation is expected to be lifted.
The ban, which was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry over listeriosis disease that was rampant in South Africa, aims at preventing possible spread of the disease to Rwanda.
The ban came into force on December 19 after the disease had claimed 60 people in South Africa. The death toll has since surpassed 180.
Though treatable and preventable, listeriosis is a serious disease caused by the bacterium called listeria monocytogenes, which can be found in soil, water and vegetation.
The Head of Regulation at the ministry, Beatrice Uwumuremyi, told The New Times that the ban will remain in place until the South African government confirms that the outbreak has been brought under control.
“The outbreak is still rampant and it will be lifted when South Africa notifies us that it is over. There is a team put in place in Rwanda to continue monitoring the situation in South Africa. The team is composed of representatives from institutions, including our Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Trade and Industry; Rwanda Standards Board; Rwanda Agriculture Board; and Rwanda Biomedical Centre,” she said.
Most apples consumed in Rwanda are imported from South Africa.
A mini survey conducted around Kigali’s supermarkets and ordinary markets showed that, though most stalls were fully stocked with fruits like oranges, pineapples, bananas, watermelons and others, the absence of apples was glaring.
Marie-Claire Nkundumukiza, a fruit vendor at Kimironko market, says that since mid-January, there have been less and less apples on the market.
“I have been selling fruits for a year now and, while we do have specific times when a particular fruit is in short supply, especially during low seasons, we had never experienced such scarcity with regard to apples,” she said.
Glycerie Umubyeyi, the proprietor of Shalom-Shalom Mini Supermarket at Gishushu in Gasabo District, said she has had to give up on apples and that it seems even her clients have given up on the fruit.
“The clients come in, pick the other fruits, pay and leave. They have been asking for three months now and it seems that they have given up. There are no apples and even when you find any in the market, one goes for Rfw500. How much would I sell it for here then?” she wondered.
At Simba Supermarket outlet in downtown Kigali, bananas dominate their fruit section, then pineapples and watermelons. Venuste Mbabazi, an attendant in this section, told The New Times that they sold their last apples in January.
Mbabazi said that the ban has not only affected apples but a couple of other fruits too.
“Besides apples, we also have a shortage of pears and grapes, all of which are imported from South Africa,” he said.
Vincent Mutabazi, a regular fruits buyer, said he had to abandon his normal shopping area in Sonatube in search of apples but in vain.
“I can’t find them anywhere, I have really looked around in vain. I have settled for other fruits available on the market,” he said.
While anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weak immunity.
Symptoms from the food-borne disease include diarrhea, fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.
Rwanda imports up to 60 tonnes of fruits from South Africa annually; these include oranges, apples, kiwis, pears and grapes.
The ban also affected beef of which reports indicate that Rwandan hotels alone import 2.4 tonnes of beef from South Africa every month.