Ngoma mulls over pineapple processing plant to cushion farmers against losses

Pineapple farmers in Mugesera Sector, Ngoma District have expressed concern over the lack of market for their produce, prompting district authorities to commission a study to establish the viability of a pineapple processing plant in the area.

Farmers who spoke to The Business Timessaid that most of their products were rotting from the gardens because they don’t have anywhere to sell them.

The farmers witnessed a bumper harvest between August and September, leading to excess of pineapples on the market, which triggered low prices and hence losses.

“We are much aware of that,” the District Mayor, Aphrodise Nambaje said, adding that farmers have raised this issue several times.

Farmers and district officials believe that a pineapple processing plant would be the only solution to the lack of adequate market, which has hurt farmers for a very long time.

District officials have now sought the services of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) to work on a feasibility study to establish the viability of a pineapple wine processing plant in the region.  

“Talks with NIRDA have already started and feasibility studies are underway. We are now thinking about where the plant can be constructed,” the mayor said.

In order to cushion farmers against irregular market trends, authorities also struck a deal with Inyange Industries to buy pineapples from Ngoma farmers.

However, the Inyange market has not been adequate enough to cater for the high supply from the district, arguably the country’s biggest producer of pineapple.

“You can find pineapples planted on a consolidated land of around 3,000 hectares,” the mayor said, adding that Mugesera Sector alone has pineapple plantations on more than 1,500 hectares.

The district says the factory will add value to farmers’ produce and also produce for the export market.

Jeanne Mukarugina, a 61-year old farmer from Rwinkwavu village, Akabungo Cell, Mugesera Sector, told The Business Times that the past few days were a nightmare for farmers whose pineapples were rotting away in farms.

One pineapple costs between Rwf50 and Rwf150 yet it should be costing around Rwf400, she said.

The harvest season for pineapple is between early August and mid-September.

“All farmers here do not have access to stable market during the harvest period,” she Mukarugina.

Efforts by farmers to transport their produce to the market on their bicycles don’t pay off, she added.

“If a factory is established here, it cannot run out of supply, absolutely,” she said.

Huye, Nyanza, Muhanga and Kigali City are the major destinations for pineapples from Ngoma district, Mukarugina said, adding that the process of transporting the fruits from the area of surplus to where there’s high demand is hectic.

The farmers rely on traders who come to Ngoma to collect the fruits themselves.

Despite challenges associated with market volatilities, Mukarugina said pineapple farming has changed her life and that of other farmers.

It has boosted their income levels and they can now pay school fees for their children, build own houses and install solar electricity in their homes, she said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw