Horticulture exports rise to Rwf4.7b

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Rwanda looks to rejuvinate the floriculture sector to boost foreign exports. (File)

Rwanda’s horticulture industry fetched more than $6.1 million (Rwf4.7 billion) in the 11 months to November 2015, an increase from $4.3 million realised in the same period in 2014. This was an increase of 41.3 per cent, according to National Agricultural Exports Board report released last week. 

The sector exported 4.5 million kilogrammes of horticulture (fruits and vegetables) produce between July and November, generating $1.8 million over the period. If we compare horticulture revenue July-November 2015 ($1.8 million) to that of 2014 ($1.7 million) in the same period, we have an increase totaling $119,020 or 7 per cent above 2014 horticulture revenue.

Rwanda is looking at horticulture, especially the flower sub-sector to help spur the country’s export receipts in the medium-term. In fact, NAEB had targeted to increase the sector’s earnings to $140 million (about Rwf105 billion) worth of exports annually by 2020. The industry was earlier projected to earn Rwanda about $220 million per year by 2017, according to the roadmap by NAEB. It was expected to start producing about 54 million stems per year, earning €8 million (Rwf6.9 billion) annually by last year. The Gishari Flower Park project that had been expected to be the driver of the sector and was projected to start cut roses exports to the Europe in 2013 has stalled.

The government is shopping for a new investor after Kenya firm, Shalimar Flowers, reportedly pulled out of the project, according to regional media reports.

“We are looking for another investor,” Tony Nsanganira, the State Minister for Agriculture, is reported as saying.

“An investor from Israel has shown interest in the park.”

The government had earmarked $21.8 million (about Rwf16.6 billion) about three years ago to promote flower growing in the country. Rwanda currently focuses on production of ornamental flowers, grown by different individual farmers and farmer co-operatives across the country. The country produces over 1.4 million stems of summer flowers per year.

The three-phase Gishari Flower Park project sits on a total 100 hectare; 60 hectares of which were supposed to be developed in the first and second phases, respectively.

An initial 20 hectares were to be developed as a model project aimed at rejuvenating flower growing, especially cut roses, and to help the country resume exports. It was being developed on the buy, own and transfer basis, where NAEB would eventually sell to private operators to take it over. The industry also suffers from shortage of skilled manpower as it is still young. This has been one of the constraints of the horticulture sector as it affects production and quality along the value chain.

According to the Rwanda Floriculture Annual Development report for 2013 by NAEB, it was projected that the country could produce 47 million stems of summer flowers last year, which would increase to 70 million stems in 2016. The report indicates that 44 million stems of cut roses were targeted for 2015 and 66 million stems of cut roses this year. The combined total flower production was set at 91 million stems last year and 136 million stems in 2016 worth €13.6 million, and €20.4 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, NAEB has revealed that the phase two of the project has started and will involve construction of greenhouses and irrigation system, as well as installation of equipment, and the spray system. It will be implemented under Bella Flowers, a government company under NAEB, through an Israel firm called Omni Agriculture Limited, according Pie Ntwari, the public relations and communications officer at NAEB.

Bella Flowers is fully owned by NAEB.

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