The National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) and a Korean-based company, HEWorks Rwanda Silk, have signed an agreement to improve silk production in the country.
HEWorks Rwanda Silk will invest $5.1 million into silk production, according to the 10-year agreement signed on Tuesday.
Innocent Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, and Amb George William Bill Kayonga, the NAEB chief executive officer, signed the deal on behalf of government, while HEWorks chief Hee Choon Yang represented the firm.
Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana witnessed the signing ceremony at the ministry head offices in Kigali.
Mukeshimana said the agreement is instrumental to the development of the sericulture industry in Rwanda. The minister said the firm will work with NAEB to enhance production capacity of the sericulture industry as well as provide farmers a ready market.
The minister commended HEWorks’ commitment toward promoting Rwanda’s sericulture industry, and pledged government’s full support to the company.
“This is the right moment to invest in the local silk industry. I believe that your expertise in the industry will help us achieve growth and production targets set for the sector,” Minister Mukeshimana said while speaking at the signing of the deal.
She added that the project is an important milestone in the country’s campaign to increase export volumes and value.
Speaking at the event, Hee Choon Yang, the chief executive officer HEWorks, said the project will help improve farmers’ livelihoods through increased income, and also strengthen the country’s export promotion strategy.
Yang said the company will buy all the cocoons produced by farmers, including those “harvested before the signing of the deal”.
He added that HEWorks will set up a centre of excellence that will serve as a training facility for farmers and other stakeholders along the silk value chain.
Eric Mbonigaba, the National Sericulture Centre manager, said 20 hectares of land have been allocated in Rwamagana District for mulberry production.
Introduced into the country over 10 years ago, sericulture is one of the non-traditional sectors aimed at diversifying the agriculture industry exports, besides creating more jobs for the youth and women.
Sericulture, also known as silk farming, involves rearing of silkworms to produce raw silk. It started with 40 co-operatives, and employs over 3,000 farmers countrywide, including in Karongi, Nyanza, Gakenke and Gatsibo districts.
More about the deal
Under the agreement, NAEB will collaborate with HEworks to set the farm gate price of fresh cocoons produced by farmers.
The two parties will also collaborate on value-addition along the value chain. NAEB will initially set up a processing plant with support from IFAD through PRICE project, while the investor will install machines for drying and processing cocoons into silk yarn. Once production rises, the two parties will collaborate in processing dried cocoons, and another factory will be constructed by HEWorks.
The export will also organise sericulture farmers to increase quality and quantity of cocoons produced at co-operative and individual household level.
It will give HEWorks information on mulberry cultivation, silkworm houses and equipment related to cocoon production. HEworks will be responsible for transporting the cocoons from collection centres to the reeling factory.