APTC forced out of potato trading chain

A participants makes a point during the meeting on Sunday. Farmers have welcomed Government’s decision to withdraw APTC from the potato value chain. Regis Umurengezi.

The Government has decided to withdraw the Agro Processing Trust Cooperation Ltd (APTC) from potato trading business as part of broader efforts to address the chaos in the potato business value chain.

The directive was announced on Sunday following a meeting that brought together ministers for Local Government, Trade and Industry, and Agriculture as well as potato farmers from Northern and Western provinces, among other stakeholders.

The ministers had visited potato farmers and potato collection centres in Musanze, Burera and Nyabihu districts to hear from the farmers.

While officiating at the meeting, the Minister for Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, said the Government had decided to hold discussions on what was needed to be done to put to an end to the disruptions which have been affecting the potato supply chain.

Farmers attribute some malpractices to APTC, including the delay in payment, lying behind the unscrupulous traders who undervalue Irish potato prices, and violating standard regulations meant to equally benefit all players in the value chain.

They also complained over the Rwf13 that APTC deducts on each kilogramme  sold at the potato collection centres.

Minister Shyaka assured that Government would protect farmers’ interests, stressing that it would never allow corruption and related vices to ravage the potato supply chain.

He explained that the Government’s decision to withdraw APTC from the potato business was not about the firm’s inefficiency but rather to help potato cooperatives develop.

“We want members of cooperatives to develop faster, we want to curb malpractices that cause disorder in potato business value chain and believe that measures we jointly come up with will lead to a sustainable solution,” Shyaka told journalists

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, said her ministry would deploy more personnel that will be tasked with monitoring and building the capacity of farmers’ cooperatives in collaboration with Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA).

She assured that the ministry will be revising potato prices every three months.

Farmers upbeat

Farmers welcomed the Government decision.

“Some of us were about to abandon potato farming over chaos in the business caused by those who were supposed to be our saviours. We are now very grateful to the Government for having responded to our concerns,” said Aimable Kubwimana, a farmer from Nyabihu District.

During the meeting with the ministers, 10 resolutions were drawn up to protect the Irish potato farmers’ rights on their produce.

Among the resolutions taken is that farmers who own vehicles can now take their produce to the market on their own unlike previously when this had been prohibited.