For the first time in Rwanda’s history, a kilogramme of beans for consumption reached Rwf2,000, while that of maize rose to Rwf600, according to farmers, a situation that reduced the purchasing power of low-income earners through increased spending on food. That occurred in 2022. A number of factors contributed to this. These include the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war, which disrupted the commodity supply chain, led to high cost of production and increased transport costs. As a result, the prices that the final consumers had to pay soared – as traders made ‘maneuvers’ to pass on the rising costs to the former. For instance, according to bakers, the price of a 25-kilogramme bag of wheat flour, which used to cost Rwf16,000 before the Covid-19 outbreak, rose to Rwf20,000 during the pandemic, and Rwf25,000 in March 2022 because of Russia-Ukraine war, implying 36 per cent increase compared to the situation before these two events. And, drought was also one of the reasons for the food price increase this year, as it caused a reduction in farm productivity and a shortage of food items and milk on the market. Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of the Federation of Maize Farmers' Cooperatives in Rwanda told The New Times that drought took its toll on crop production, estimating that overall, maize produce is expected to drop by 40 per cent as a result. “Some farmers get about five tonnes of maize per hectare when there is good weather, but drought caused a decline to two tonnes per hectare,” he said, referring to the dry spell effect, which made maize price reach an all-time high this year. Friduas Uwamahoro, a farmer from Nyagatare District, said that this year, farmers were separately affected by factors including drought and floods, which caused yield drop. “In the farming season which concluded in June, bean produce dropped by some 30 per cent because of drought. And, in the current farming season, bean plantations were destroyed by rain during their flowering period, which shattered some farmers’ harvest hope,” she said. Before this situation, she indicated a kilogramme of beans was going for Rwf250 in some parts of Nyagatare District, “and farmers lacked ready buyers for their produce” but later climbed to Rwf1,300 as the mentioned conditions hindered farm productivity. Concerning drought impact on milk production, data from the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB) indicated that, for instance, the average quantity of milk collected from 15 milk collection centres (MCCs) in Nyagatare – a major milk shed in the country – decreased by 60 per cent from 100,000 litres a day during the rainy season (in March-April) to reach 39,900 litres a day ( in July) this year. Consequently, the retail price of the processed fresh milk by Inyange Industries Ltd, increased by 60 per cent from Rwf500 to Rwf800 a half-litre (or 500ml) pack, in some parts of Kigali. Providing free fertilisers to farmers In an attempt to mitigate the high food prices, and drought effects, the Government of Rwanda made interventions including offering free fertilisers to its farmers, as well as intensifying irrigation efforts. In October, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana issued special instructions regarding the provision of DAP and urea fertilisers fully subsidised by the Government to farmers in the farming season A of 2023 [which starts from September 2022 and runs through February 2023]. According to the instructions, the support concerns maize, soya and bean farming on consolidated agriculture land, and selected large farmland based on their potential to give high yields. Before this development, a farmer had to pay Rwf828 as a partially Government subsidised fertiliser price for a kilogramme of DAP, and Rwf754 for a kilogramme of urea – two key fertilisers required to increase farm productivity for the abovementioned crops. According to information from RAB, the Government was providing over 2,372 tonnes of DAP and 2,000 tonnes of urea at 100 per cent subsidy to farmers, and allocated Rwf2.6 billion to this end. Such a fertiliser quantity was to cover 43,818 ha, consisting of 2,146 consolidated sites, RAB indicated. Tugirinshuti said the Government’s support to offer free fertilisers to farmers was a relief. “For irrigated areas, fertilisers help crops to grow well and increase farm yields, which help consumers to get lower-cost food, and enable farmers to get income,” he said, adding that the maize harvest for the current farming season is expected in February and March 2023. Tugirinshuti underscored the need for increased irrigation efforts to build farmers’ resistance to drought. For irrigation, RAB data showed that 14,604 ha were to be supported with small-scale irrigation technologies as the Government had allocated over Rwf2 billion for these interventions. Indeed, what happened to the agriculture sector is reflected in its small growth as indicated by figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). According to separate NISR Gross Domestic Product (GDP) National Accounts for the three quarters of 2022 (from January to September), agriculture output grew by an average of 1.3 per cent. This growth is far lower than the previous agriculture performance whereby its GDP expanded by 6 per cent on average over the six years up to 2018, and the targeted growth of 10 per cent under the fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation running from 2018 through 2024.