The Senate has called for more efforts to address the problem of shortage of raw materials in the agro-processing sector.
Currently, Rwandan farmers are not producing enough despite ready demand for their produce, the lawmakers said.
They noted that proper use of all arable land including marshlands developed for farming purposes could address this challenge.
The remarks were made on Wednesday, as the senate plenary examined a report of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance, highlighting issues in agriculture and livestock in the country.
The report was compiled after countrywide field tours conducted by the lawmakers towards the end of last year.
The senators cited soya, cassava and wheat factories in different parts of the country which are working below capacity or relying on imported raw materials.
“You realise that farmers in areas where these factories are located have not taken advantage of their proximity to the factories to supply enough raw materials to them,” said Senator Richard Sezibera, referring to the soya processor in Kayonza District.
Senator Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo said Kinazi cassava plant works at about one third of its capacity because of lack of enough cassava in the country.
Rwanda spent about $112 million on imports in the agro-processing sector on items such as sugar, fertilisers, edible oil, dried fish, maize and rice, according to the Domestic Market Recapture Strategy produced in 2015 by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs.
Figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board show that the country’s soya production is still low, at an estimated 35,000 tonnes per year.
This is even less than the soya demand of Mount Meru Soyco Ltd, an agribusiness company based in Kayonza District, whose soya cooking oil factory has a crunching capacity of 45,000 tonnes of soya beans per year.
Official figures also indicate that Rwanda imports about 30,000 tonnes of cooking oil, the main soya product, at a cost of $42 million annually.
Kinazi cassava plant has capacity to process 120 tonnes of cassava per day, but it could not even get 30 tonnes per day, last year, meaning that the plant was not reaching even 30 percent its capacity following the outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease, according to General Manager Emile Nsanzabaganwa.
Need to make the most of the farmland
Senator Michel Rugema said that if the available developed marshlands located in various districts were properly used and managed, crop yields could be three times more than the current.
For example there are about 20,000 hectares of marshlands reserved for rice farming in different parts of the country.
Rugema noted that the government invested a lot of money in the development of marshlands hence people should make the most of them.
The lawmakers’ report also raises concerns over land use consolidation in the country.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Economic Development and Finance, Jacqueline Muhongayire said that even with land consolidation, land use was not consolidated as it should, which is a challenge for agriculture productivity.
“Apart from rice where farmers grow the crop in marshlands, people are still practicing traditional agriculture characterised by mixed farming. This affects proper fertiliser and pesticide and insecticide application because for instance, the need for these inputs for Irish potato crop is different from that of beans,” Muhongayire said.
Land consolidation stood at 819,803 hectares against the target of 981,453 hectares by 2016-2017 as of September 2016 figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
On terracing, Senator Muhangayire said that some terraces are poorly made or managed which affects agriculture productivity.
In 2015-2016, Agriculture sector contributed Rwf1,512 billion, representing, about 30 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Rwf5,011 billion then, figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda show.
The senators also resolved to push the government to put in place long-term programmes for timely provision of farm inputs, including seeds and fertilisers to farmers.