Farmers turn to value addition to help shore up maize prices

Owners of the storage facility speak to Kayonza Mayor Murenzi (centre) about the new fertilisers they received.

Emmanuel Havugimanaa farmer from Kayonza District, in Eastern Province, harvested six tonnes of maize last season, but he is still an unhappy man as the low prices on the market are undermining his efforts. He was offered between Rwf90 and Rwf100 per one kilogramme.

He said the price has drastically dropped from over Rwf230 per kilogramme previously, which he says has fast discouraged farmers’ efforts.

“We buy maize seeds at Rwf540 per kilogramme and selling at Rwf90 per kilogramme could easily lead us to losses. We would like prices to be regulated as well as strategies to help farmers embrace value addition,” he said.

Some farmers turned to value addition after realising that they were counting losses due to low prices.

Jacqueline Nyirambabazi, the vice president of ABARWI Cooperative in Gatsibo District, said that they used to sell a kilogramme at Rwf230, but the price has since fallen to Rwf90.

However, she noted, the cooperative is currently resilient to price fluctuations since they have managed to organise themselves and accessed support to set up a processing unit to produce maize flour.

The cooperative has 68 farmers who pool their produce together for processing in their own factory.

“Thanks to value addition, we are currently selling maize flour at Rwf360 per one kilogramme. This gives us more profits since 10 kilogrammes of maize grains produce seven kilogrammes of maize flour. If a kilogramme of maize grain is Rwf100, it means it is Rwf1, 000 for 10 kilogrammes. But when processed one kilogramme of maize flour is sold at Rwf360. This makes over Rwf2,500 for seven kilogrammes which is double the returns in comparison to unprocessed maize,” she said.

The farmers supply between 20 and 30 tonnes to the processinfactory every season and that way avoid selling their produce at giveaway prices.

The new warehouse. Photos by Michel Nkurunziza.

According to Egide Gatari, the agricultural subsidies programme manager at Rwanda Agricultural Board, the price should be at least Rwf160 per kg, adding that there is need of quality produce to attract better prices and efforts in adding value to than produce.

“Working in cooperatives can help farmers bring together their efforts and set up a processing factory. Also, better post-harvest handling such as having suitable storage and drying, facilities, attract better prices to the produce,” he said.

He said the Government has allocated Rwf9.5 billion as subsidies to 14 types of fertilisers for season A and B.

He was talking to farmers and private sector players at the launch of a fertiliser warehouse with capacity to store 1,500 tonnes of fertilisers and maize produce launched in Eastern Province.

“We want to reach 8 tonnes of yields per hectare in terms of maize production but farmers are still getting below that,” he said.

According to Frank Kaduga, the investor who set up the warehouses in Kayonza District, farmers will be accessing the fertilisers more easily as opposed to previous times when they had to travel to Kigali which would often delay planting.

“As investors we are mulling over a new model in coming years to increase warehouses for fertilisers, seeds and harvest, and drying facilities as well as processing factories to add value to produce,” he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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