The agricultural exports body has embarked on a nationwide exercise to register horticulture exporters as it moves to strengthen collaboration with sector players to ensure quality and boost competitiveness.
“The National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) wishes to informs its esteemed partners and exporters of vegetables, fruits and flowers (fresh or dried) or those who plan to start such export to register at NAEB,” a notice issued by the export body on December 28 reads in part. It added that this (list of exporters) will serve as reference and basis to draw strategies and also help to strengthen collaboration with the aim of boosting volumes and quality of horticultural exports from Rwanda by complying with export market requirements.
Commenting on the initiative, Eric Ruganintwari, the head of quality assurance at the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB), said the exercise is designed to bring together all horticulture exporters and strengthen collaboration between the organisation and exporters.
“It is important that we work and plan together as an industry. Besides, we can’t address the various challenges affecting them and the sector, generally if we don’t interact or know them,” he told The New Times in an interview last week. “Horticulture export is a very sensitive business and, therefore, we need all exporters to register with NAEB by January 31 to ease traceability and quality monitoring,” he added.
The exercise however, targets exporters of fresh or dried vegetables, fruits and flowers to countries other than the DR Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, according to the notice.
Horticulture exporters can also register at NAEB provincial offices in Musanze, Karongi, Nyanza and Kayonza, and those who will not have registered by the set deadline will not be allowed to engage in export trade, the notice signed by NAEB deputy CEO Sandrine Urujeni indicates.
Exporters applaud the move
Local horticulture exporters have welcomed move to register sector stakeholders, saying it will help promote fair competition besides boosting quality. Donatille Nibagwire, the managing director FLORIS, which exports horticulture produce to the Middle East and Europe, said the move will help weed out unscrupulous exporters and make business more competitive.
“This will increase our competitiveness and widen Rwanda’s markets abroad,” said Nibagwire.
Rwanda has intensified efforts geared at increasing exports over the past few years, particularly for the non-traditional products like flowers, vegetables and fruits. This is the first time the export body is conducting the exercise targeting the horticulture industry. It has already conducted similar exercises for the tea and coffee sectors, according to officials.
Previously, NAEB has been dealing with challenges, such as post-harvest handling and packaging, to bolster horticulture business in the country.
Epimaque Nsanzabaganwa, the NAEB horticulture division manager, told this publication in an earlier interview that the export body was investing heavily in cold chain facilities to ensure quality along value chain.
The export body last year unveiled a 40-tonne capacity multimillion modern facility at NAEB headquarters in Gikondo where firms can prepare and package their produce for export.
In addition, NAEB has been encouraging diversification and has introduced new varieties to boost the sector’s competitiveness.
“We are looking at market demand and climate adaptability to be able to roll out more varieties, especially in the flower industry,” Nsanzabaganwa said. He added that they are looking to exploit new markets in the Middle East and West Africa for Rwanda’s horticulture produce.
In a related development, NAEB is currently mapping land that is suitable for horticulture as it seeks more investors. The agency is targeting a total of 2,000 hectares that will be dedicated to export-oriented production. NAEB is also investing in expansion of fruit production by developing quality planting material and facilitating farmers in production of avocados, mangoes and pineapples.
Efforts to address fruit shortage include increasing planting material through establishment of new nurseries for citrus and mango in gazetted RAB stations and in some selected farmer’s fields, according to NAEB.
Overall, the flower industry in Rwanda has been growing at a low rate of about 5 per cent over the past years in terms of increased areas under flower production. The horticulture sector, especially floriculture, was identified by government as a sector that could quickly improve the country’s export revenue.