As the harvest season edges closer districts’ officials and agriculture institutions in Eastern Province have committed to ensuring improved handling of maize harvests in order to preserve the produce for bigger markets and consumption during times of scarcity
Maize farmers in the province have previously complained about the lack of markets for their maize produce while some major agri-processing factories complained about supply shortage.
This raised questions on the quality of maize produced and prompted policymakers to facilitate farmers to improve the way they handle their produce after harvest.
This and more other concerns were again the subject of discussion during Thursday’s meeting that attracted officials from Ministry of Agriculture, Rwanda Agriculture Board, districts and Eastern Province, irrigation schemes managers, among others.
Effective from the upcoming harvest period, the meeting resolved, every district in the province will constitute a team headed by the vice mayor for economic affairs to outline a detailed plan on the postharvest process.
Eastern Province projects a bumper maize harvest.
“We want to reduce post-harvest losses,” Fred Mufulukye, the Governor of the Eastern Province, said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rwanda Agriculture Board said agro-processors have raised the concern of low supply.
“We eventually learned that the produce was not handled properly, making them too substandard for the market,” Mufulukye said.
Yassin Iyamuremye, the Director General of Corporate services in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, urged stakeholders in the agricultural sector to help farmers improve the postharvest handling of their produce.
“Africa Improved Food (AIF) need 30,000 tonnes of maize every year, however, the quality they need is grade one, Aflatoxin-free,” he said, citing more agro-processing factories that require high quality inputs.
Iyamuremye said the ministry has designed short-term and long-term strategies to help farmers preserve their produce.
“It would help a lot if we make farmers understand the risks lying in not taking good care of the maize harvest,” he said.
He added that the ministry had bought mobile laboratories to help farmers test the quality of their maize from the farms.
“No single maize will be sold to market with aflatoxin, it will not be sold without fulfilling those standards, and farmers should know that. Secondly, even for those processing factories that used to buy the produce directly from the farmers, inspections will be made to make sure that the maize they are processing is of decent quality,” he said.