Agriterra, a Dutch non-government organization in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) has started trials to grow apples in the districts of Musanze and Gicumbi of Northern Province.
Agriterra supports local farmers in cooperatives who are engaged in dairy farming, Irish potatoes, maize, and sugarcane, horticulture and coffee among others.
It was founded in 1997 in the Netherlands but currently works in 23 countries worldwide including 13 from Africa.
It has now been assigned to try apple production in Rwanda.
Rwanda currently imports apples from South Africa and the government is keen to invest in domestic apple production to gradually substitute these imports.
The organization, on October 26, launched trials to grow apples in Rwanda.
Jean Rémy Muramira, a Business Advisor at Agriterra, explained that at least 2,000 grafted apples of four varieties were planted on two hectares.
The imported apple varieties were multiplied by the Fleuren Company in the Netherlands.
The four grafted Dutch varieties include Gala, Red delicious, Granny and Golden delicious apple varieties that are liked on the local market, he said.
These include 800 grafted apples planted in Gicumbi district by some members of Huguka-Kageyo cooperative and 1,200 grafted apples planted in Musanze district by two cooperatives namely COAPB in Nyange sector and KOUSHI cooperative in Shingiro sector.
“We preferred these regions after realizing that these varieties could adapt to cold weather. We also first tested soil acidity. Farmers can also intercrop with small crops.
We introduced apple varieties after a successful trial of strawberries in Rutsiro District from Flevo Berry Company in Netherlands,” noted Muramira.
How the planting process was executed
The farmers planted each apple variety in a hole of 60 cm by 60 cm and 60 cm of depth with manure while chemical fertilizers will be applied later.
The trees were planted at three metres distance between one another.
If demonstration activity is successful, it is expected that the trees will produce fruits after two years and continue to be productive for 10-15 years.
According to Muramira, one potential apple tree can produce up to 300 fruits and more per year if well catered for.
This means that two hectares-on which 2,000 grafted apples were planted on two hectares-could provide up to 600,000 fruits generating Rwf180,000,000 per year if sold at Rwf300 per one fruit.
Currently one imported apple goes for between Rwf350 and Rwf500 on the local market.
Farmers welcome the trials
Farmers have welcomed the trials saying that once locally grown, apple prices could become affordable besides generating money for growers and retailers as well as exporters.
“Agriterra has been helping us to improve Irish potatoes and we are hopeful we could start generating more income from apples once trials are successful,” said Innocent Dufatanye, the president of COAPB cooperative in Nyange Sector, Musanze District.
This organization has trained us on best agricultural practices to grow Irish potatoes, selecting quality seeds, producing manure and we are upbeat that growing apples will also be possible, added Innocent Twizerimana, another member of the cooperative.
Marceline Mukamazimpaka, another member of COAPB cooperative said that they are currently buying one apple at Rwf500 in Musanze adding the move to grow apples locally is timely.
“Once trials are successful, farmers will adopt the varieties,” she said.
According to Peter Ntaganda, the Advisor to the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, trials of apples in Rwanda could reduce trade deficit in the horticulture sector.
“Rwanda spends a lot of money on importing apples. This trade deficit could decrease since we have selected varieties liked on the local market,” he said.
He said agricultural experts will continue to monitor farmers on apple growing, adding that once successful, they could be multiplied and distributed to more farmers.Follow NkurunzizaMiche