Police in Eastern Province have foiled major theft operations involving over 1,000 tonnes of seeds and fertilisers. The intercepted smuggled goods were either being sold within the province or transported to various locations. Some of the illicit items had already been dispatched to neighbouring countries, raising concerns about the extent of this illegal trade network. Speaking to residents in Rukara sector, Kayonza District, in Eastern Province, Regional Police Commander ACP Innocent Rutagarama Kanyamihigo said: “Why do you sell seeds and fertilisers? The government provides seeds and fertilisers for you to increase productivity. Why do you sell them? We have intercepted more than 1,000 metric tonnes of seeds and fertilisers in different parts of the province, among them a Tanzanian we arrested in Ngoma smuggling seeds to Tanzania. That is not right. We call upon everyone to make good use of the fertilisers and also provide us information on such malpractices.” The effects of the illegal sale of fertilisers have impacted the farming routine of some residents in Rukara. Anastase Twahirwa rents land to grow crops every season in Rukara sector; this season, 2022/23, he is worried his yields will drop due to the lack of fertilisers. He said, “A farmer who gets fertilisers has to possess a land title; land owners are the ones who sell fertilisers to us, unlike before when we bought the fertilisers from agro-dealers. A sack of seeds that was bought at Rwf 1,500 is now Rwf 4,000, and the fertilisers as well have appreciated in price.” “It has become a business for those owning land titles. I spoke to someone who told me she has 900 kilogrammes of fertiliser and seeds and is willing to sell me fertiliser for the weeding period,” he added. The issue of hoarding seeds and fertilisers for illegal sale is not only affecting farmers in Kayonza but also residents in Ngoma District, highlighting the need for stricter regulations and monitoring to protect the interests of farmers and ensure a fair and transparent agricultural market. Marceline Uwitonze, a resident in the Kibungo sector, along with five other farmers, bought land from the same seller; he never shared fertiliser with them, yet they have not divided the land titles. They are now faced with the predicament of not only having to deal with a dishonest seller but also with the lack of essential fertiliser for their farming. This has put their farming routines at risk, potentially leading to lower crop yields and financial losses if they do not use the fertilisers this season, according to them. “We are missing out on the season because the land owner from whom we bought the land has never helped us get seeds and fertilisers, yet he registered the whole piece of land under his name. I came here to the district’s offices to inquire what we should do,” Uwitonze said. The farmers are worried about the dip in fertiliser distribution, which could dent their yields and incomes. Without access to fertiliser, the farmers fear that their crops will not receive the necessary nutrients to grow effectively, resulting in poor yields. This could have a significant impact on their income, as they rely on the success of their harvests to sustain their livelihoods. Police said that individuals engaged in the illegal sale and purchase of fertilizers and seeds will face severe punishments. They have also issued a warning to residents, urging them not to participate in these activities. Currently, the government has subsidised 100 per cent of the common fertilisers used by farmers, including DAP and Urea, which are mostly applied on selected consolidated crop plantations, to help farmers increase crop yields. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, every year, the government spends over Rwf 35 billion on agricultural input subsidies. In season 2023A, Rwf 36 billion was allocated in subsidies.