When government fixed the minimum maize price at Rwf160 in January 2016, it created a lot of discontent among farmers as it was lower than the previous Rwf230 per kilo. Farmers can, however, now afford to smile as last week the government announced a new minimum farmgate price for maize ahead of the new harvest season.
Farmers, who have been complaining about low prices over the past year, said the increase will attract more people to engage in maize growing besides boosting production, and household income.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs revised upwards the minimum farmgate maize price on January 9 to Rwf200 per kilo, from Rwf160 set a year ago. Farmers can, however, sell their maize at higher prices, depending on their bargaining.
Sam Rubagumya, one of the big maize farmers in Nyagatare District, said the new minimum price will boost production.
Rubagumya, who is also a member of the Maize Farmers’ Federation, noted that some farmers are often cheated by unscrupulous middlemen, which discourages them from expanding their plantations or ensuring quality along the maize value chain.
“That’s why I think fixing gatefarm prices is a great initiative that will attract more people to engage in maize growing to spur output,” he said in an interview with The New Times.
Fredric Munyampeta, another maize farmer in Kamonyi District, urged farmers to focus on increasing volumes and quality along value chain.
“Farmers have a long expressed concern over the low farmgate price of maize, especially at a time of rising costs,” he said, adding that government should also set prices for other crops to boost production and food security. Though the maize minimum farmgate price is currently Rwf160 per kilogramme, some crafty traders buy the cereal at Rwf150 a kilo, and retail it at a high of Rwf250 in major markets.
Government targets to achieve at least 8.5 per cent growth rate for the agriculture sector by 2018 from the current 6.5 per cent.
According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the agriculture sector grew by one per cent and contributed 0.4 percentage points to the country’s total GDP growth during the third quarter of 2016.
Maize production is projected to increase to at least 781,000 tonnes in the first season of this year, up from less than 652,000 during the same period last year. Production of beans will be over 539,000 tonnes, according to the ministry.
Commenting on the increase, Emmanuel Kayiranga, the chairperson of post-harvest handling and storage taskforce and head of the National strategic reserve at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the initiative will attract new players into the sector and boost production.
“The setting of the minimum price was necessitated by the desire to curb illegal maize trade and assess the preparedness of the market to absorb the expected maize produce in season 2017A,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to the ministry, the farmgate minimum price was set following a consultative meeting attended by farmers, officials from the ministries of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, as well as maize buyers.
Under the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), government aims at increasing agricultural productivity in high-potential food crops and ensuring food security and self-sufficiency.