Grain dealers and farmers have been urged to ensure quality and standards as part of efforts to support cross-border trade and also help develop the grain sector in the region.
Janet Ngombalu, the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) regional programme coordinator, said more efforts were required to create efficient, structured, inclusive and profitable grain trade in Rwanda and across the region, adding that this will also ensure quality and standards.
Ngombalu was speaking during a one-day workshop to review the current situation in the sector that attracted farmers, traders, processors, and financial institutions.
“There is need for a more structured trade by harmonising grain standards to ensure food safety and make the sector more competitive. Remember, poor quality produce attracts low prices, which is a big loss for farmers,” Ngombalu said on Friday. She called for farmer awareness about standards to help address this challenge.
Speaking at the event in Kigali, Eugene Rwibasira, EAGC country director, said the council supports 35 sector players in Rwanda, including farmers, traders, processors and service providers along the grain value chain by promoting their adoption of proper post-harvest management practices, like grading and standards, certification of warehouses, and creating market linkages.
He added that there was a diversification of food grains production and consumption to reduce over dependence on maize that promotes other grain such as pulses, sorghum, millets and soya beans to increase variety as well as promoting blending of grain and cereals for fortification of composite flours.
Dr Charles Murekezi, the Director General of Agriculture Development at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the ministry has been facilitating farmers to acquire post-harvest techniques to ensure that they are able to dry the produce, access the market as well as link them with traders.
“Farmers have been trained on how to adopt effective agricultural practices, drying shades, among others.
“The quality of the produce we want will depend on farmers’ ability to have their harvest on time, and go for more training. The quality should be prioritised,” Murekezi added.
Tharcisse Twahirwa, the president of KOTUKA cooperative in Nyagatare District, said that farmers are still struggling to get funding, collection centres, and agriculture machinery and processing equipment. The farmers cooperative produces maize, beans and soya beans.
“Farmers are not financially stable. So, they can’t afford drying machines, among other facilities needed to conserve the produce,” Twahirwa said.
He said he was optimistic that the sector would become more productive and sustainable once farmers get proper post-harvest handling and better storage facilities.