What's the way forward for Rwanda’s horticulture industry?

Workers package some vegetables for export at NAEB in November 2019. / File.

There is need for an organised value chain to boost productivity and increase Rwanda’s horticulture export revenue, horticulture exporters have said.

The call was made at the official launch of Rwanda’s Horticulture Exports Association last week in Kigali.

 

According to Robert Rukundo, Chairman of the association, the industry’s performance has been mainly hurt by management and organisation issues.

 

He told the Business Times that, “As exporters we want to organise ourselves. Bringing our efforts together in order to boost the sector performance while we also address the existing challenges in this industry”

 

Rukundo highlighted that, “The spirit of individualism, (selfishness), people wanting to work individually by not sharing information, has been the biggest challenge in horticulture export business.”

However, the chairman also pointed out that owing to the current coronavirus pandemic, other challenges hurting the horticulture business include; financial capability, high cost of freight charges, a limited number of products exported, issue of discrepancies in data among others.

Speaking to this paper, Jean Marie Vianney Munyaneza, Diversification and Product Manager at NAEB, cautioned that the new association should strive for the sector to thrive.

Munyaneza said that, “This should work as an ingredient to see that what is expected from this sector can be achieved with no excuses. Coming together is indeed a great milestone because if exporters are not organised themselves,”

He highlighted that the Government forecast shows that the country will generate annual export revenue of $130 million from horticulture by 2024.

“Seeing that the group is ready to come together and put efforts together, it is a sign that our work is also going to be easier and better” said Fanny Musheja, Supply Chain Manager at DP world.

Additionally, Musheja noted that “We are optimistic that this will not only lead to an organised sector but it will also, ensure smooth operations with stakeholders”

The association founded in 2016 has now grown to a tally of 38 exporting companies, but Munyaneza said that there are over 60 registered export companies.

Boosting productivity, foreign revenue

Bosco Gakwaya, Cargo Manager, RwandAir, challenged the exporters to seek to enter bigger markets such as the UK, in a bid to increase the foreign revenue.

Rukundo the head of the association said that: “We want to prioritise partnerships with different stakeholders, while we also deal with the issue of price wars and registration of exporting companies”

He also lauded the government’s interventions to help the sector survive the current pandemic crisis, while he vowed to increase production in the industry.

“Increase in productivity can only be done through the structured systems of trace-ability code. This will help us identify where goods are coming from, right from the farm, to the cold room up to the airline until it is exported as cargo,” he said.

Currently the cost of airfreight has been said to be high by exporters standing at $1.8 per kilogramme compared to $1.4 before the pandemic.

Andre Ndikumana, the acting Chief Executive of NAEB, said earlier that there are engagements with the airline to access ways to reduce the costs to improve the competitiveness of the exports and improve returns of producers.

Beyond working with RwandAir to reduce cost of airfreight, NAEB is also engaging them to open up more destinations which have demand for fresh produce such as Dubai, China and South Africa.

The country’s horticulture exports are dominated by onion, fresh beans, fresh peas, tomato, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, eggplants, French bean, pepper, and mushrooms.

Others are chili, snow peas, flowers, broccoli, macadamia, avocado, and passion fruits.

eashimwe@newtimesrwanda.com

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