TOP STORY: Horticulture, the untapped industry

Information from RHODA indicates that Rwanda earned about $131 million (Rwf 72.3m) as of August last year Rwanda has unrealised potential in the horticulture industry that if exploited can produce quality and competitive products for the regional and international markets.
Draceana trees ready for export. (File Photo).
Draceana trees ready for export. (File Photo).

Information from RHODA indicates that Rwanda earned about $131 million (Rwf 72.3m) as of August last year

Rwanda has unrealised potential in the horticulture industry that if exploited can produce quality and competitive products for the regional and international markets.

Though it’s identified as a priority area for export development, there is limited interest and investment which is seriously crippling the horticulture industry.

The government is therefore calling upon Public Private Partnership venture to invest in the production and processing.

Rwanda has the opportunity to export concentrated juices and organic products such as bananas products, passion fruits because of its favourable climate and soils.

The government secured about 200 ha of land, the Flower Park in Gishari sector Rwamagana district but only a few investors have shown interest to acquire 50 ha for the rose farm in the park.

According to Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA), the project is expected to produce 60 million stems and progressively with time to 100 million stems every year which will be at least 90 percent export product.

The initiative is replicated from Ethiopia that has attracted many flower investors both local and international generating $25m per year.

Countries like Kenya and Ethiopia which Rwanda, earn billions from flower sales.

Information from RHODA indicates that Kenya earned $1.7 billion of horticulture sales in 2007, Ethiopia generated a total of $298 million from flower exports while Rwanda made to $131.171 (Rwf 72.3m) as of August last year.

Earlier on, because most horticulture products are perishable, investors in the flower sector complained about the lack of a cold-rooms and the government installed the refrigerated room with capacity to store a total of 30 metric tonnes of perishable products.

Since the installation of a cold- room, only East African growers, a subsidiary of East African Growers Kenya, came into the Rwandan market and has been able to diversify exports like passion fruit, snow pees, pineapples and Japanese plums unlike before where only roses and bananas could be shipped from the airport.

According to Aimable Gakirage, EAG Rwanda representative, Rwanda has demonstrated huge potential for the production and export of snow peas that are in high demand on the international markets.

EAG have farms in Rwamagana district and buy from independent farmers in Kaniga Sector, Gicumbi District.

Currently snow peas are shipped to the UK where they are bought and sold by Tesco, a leading UK supermarket. EAG Rwanda sells the peas at approximately $5 per kilo (Rwf2,700).

Most horticulture crops grown in the country include passion fruits, pineapples, citrus, avocadoes, mangoes, Japanese plum, apple bananas, gooseberry, strawberry, water melon, pawpaw, guava various types of vegetables flowers and ornamentals all consumed locally with 1 percent export.

Its in this regard that government is to acquire a fruit juice ‘concentrate’ plant in a bid to see the country’s horticulture products compete with others on the international markets. According to a survey done by the RHODA less than 10 percent of horticulture products from Rwanda are processed.

The plant worth $6.8m with a capacity of five metric tones per hour is expected to be in place by the end of this year. It’s said that horticulture is expensive especially flower growing needs huge investment which is beyond the capacity of most Rwandans.

Information from Rhoda indicates that one hectare needs about $450,000 in 10 ha which is the minimum acreage that is profitable.

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