The Ministry of Trade and Industry has deployed teams across the country to inquire into factors behind drastic rise in Irish potato prices among other food prices to the extent that has been recorded for the first time, The New Times has learnt. “We have sent teams to the field. We will have a report this coming Friday after properly understanding the factors behind the price increase,” confirmed Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the Minister of Trade and Industry while speaking to The New Times. Donathile Mukeshimana, a farmer from Nyange sector of Musanze district attributed the spike in prices to heavy rains which were followed by prolonged dry spells. According to her, the yield is at its lowest in as many years. “Currently, a kilogramme of potatoes which are even of poor quality goes for Rwf400 at the farm gate and over Rwf500 in close urban areas such as Musanze town. It is the first time we are experiencing such hike,” she said. In Kigali, a kilo goes for up to Rwf600. Other farmers told The New Times attributed this to the increase in inputs, like seeds and fertilisers which has ended up discouraging some farmers from continuing to grow the crop, creating a shortage. “Some farmers have moved on to other crops like wheat because currently, potato seeds cost up to Rwf1,000 from Rwf400 a kilo while inputs like fertilizers doubled to Rwf1,000 a kilo which smallholder farmers can’t afford,” Fabien Bisengimana, another farmer from Nyabihu district said. Soaring prices Food and non-alcoholic beverages prices in urban areas increased by 29.2 per cent during the month of August compared to the same period last year according to the Consumer Price Index that was released, during weekend, by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. The report shows that prices for bread and cereals increased by 27.9 per cent, meat increased by 19.4 per cent while milk cheese and eggs prices increased by 12.6 per cent. The prices for vegetables increased by 35.5 per cent while non-alcoholic beverages increased by 14.5 per cent as alcoholic beverages tobacco and narcotics increased by 10.8 per cent. Overall prices for the whole year compared to last year increased by 20 per cent. VAT exemption? According to Ngabitsinze, the government is mulling exempting some locally processed foods from VAT to be able to tame the prices on local market and to allow them to compete favourably with imported food. The food that may be exempted according to the minister include rice and maize flour which are locally produced.