The country will soon be able to meet its meat needs following efforts by one of the main producers to boost production for home consumption and export market.
Major Eugene Ruzindana, the managing director Rugari Meat Processing Limited, said the market is growing, but still underserved, calling for initiatives to boost cattle rearing and meat production to meet demand.
“The demand for meat in the country is above the current production capacity mainly because the firm is still under the investment phase. In fact, only 1.2 tonnes of meat are supplied in Kigali per day, but the target is to increase to six tones of meat daily. So, we need to increase our animal stocks to be able to satisfy the market,” Ruzindana said.
He added that expansion will also help them to participate in a full value chain beef production system emphasising traceability of the final product in terms of quality and food safety.
The firm, owned by Agro-processing Trust Corporation (APTC), a company under the Ministry of Defence through its subsidiary Rugari Meat Processing limited, is the pioneer private company to embrace Gako Integrated Beef Project to ensure sustainable beef production in the country.
“We have an abattoir with sections for cattle and goats, and based on our market, we have capacity to slaughter 10 cows per day between three to four times a week,” he said. Rwanda’s annual production will be over 2.4 million tonnes when the whole project is fully operational. Currently, only 1.2m tonnes are supplied to the market per day, mainly in Kigali. The slaughter firm presently supplies 20 hotels and restaurants through its sales outlets in Kigali, Rubavu and Rusizi, he added.
According to 2014 figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board, meat consumption in Rwanda stands at 5.6kg per person per year, while FAO recommends 30kg per person annually. The country targets to increase production to 410,808 tonnes by 2018 from 76,830 tonnes in 2014.
“We have over 500 herds of cattle (for beef) and 700 goats. However, our target is to increase the number of beef cattle to 3,000 and that of goats to 10,000 by 2018,” Major Ruzindana said in an interview with The New Times in Gako. He said the government has invested Rwf2.5 billion in project infrastructure, including electricity, water facilities and cold rooms, as well as in the cultivation of livestock pasture.
He said the project would be expanded in Gabiro, Gatsibo District to be able to increase their animal stock. He also revealed that the company is about to construct on a processing factory in Kanombe, Nyarugunga in Kicukiro District to process meat on large scale.
Ruzindana said meat production faces a number of challenges, including poor hygiene, quality control, and lack of enough animals to slaughter.
“We are, however, working to address these challenges, and we have what is required to provide Rwandans quality meat. We have some quality certifications and are currently pursuing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food certification that we hope to get in the first quarter of 2017,” he said. He added that the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) have already completed inspection of the production processes and facilities. “This (HACCP) is an international quality certification food products that will enable us to supply any market, locally and at the international level,” he said.
Lt Col Moses Kayigamba, the APTC chief executive officer, said apart from the project supplying beef it has created employment for over 100 people. These include both those employed on permanent and temporary basis. The firm also trains farmers in proper animal husbandry practices and business management skills, among others.
Tarsis Matene Rutayisire, an employee of Rugari, said he has been able to educate his children, thanks to the money he earns from the firm.
“I have also save some money and built a house,” said Vianne Niyorugina, another worker.
Eric Nyimiyimana, also an employee of Rugari, said he has saved money and invested in income-generating projects, including piggery.