Irish potato farmers were urged to register and join cooperatives to enable the Government make effective marketing plans.
The move intends to ensure that no one incurs losses due to lack of pre-arrangement depending on the quantity of their expected produce.
The call was made by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) in partnership with Rwanda Cooperatives Agency (RCA) during a consultative meeting with Irish potato farmers in Kanzenze Sector, Rubavu District.
Dativa Niyinzima, the commodity value chain trade specialist at the Ministry of Trade and
Industry, said getting all Irish potato farmers registered will boost formal trade and also help with the individual development of the famers, thanks to the guaranteed market, without fear of incurring losses like it was before.
“There have been many complaints from farmers and consumers in relation to the chaos involved in Irish potato trade. We want to avoid this completely by tracking all Irish potato trade movements and stabilise the prices across the country,” she said.
She said that though there are established collection centres where cooperatives of farmers record their production, some choose to use informal means to get more profit. And it was hard to track them because they were not recorded. She says further investigation will be conducted to penalise those who will not comply with the regulations.
To avoid fraud, on January 1 2018, MINICOM released a list of fines against traders who engage in Irish potato trade that clashes with the set procedures.
The fines were set two ways; the rural area and Kigali.
In Kigali, contravening the common price that was agreed upon in a given market, the fine will be Rwf 30,000 while selling Irish potatoes without a written authorisation from the Irish collection centre, and selling point, will attract Rwf 300,000 and Rwf 100,000 respectively.
In the countryside, if a wholesaler disregards the set price for the farmer, he/she will be fined a difference between the set price and the price paid, multiplied by the tons purchased, plus a flat fee of Rwf200, 000.
If the wholesaler is caught selling potatoes without authorisation from a collection centre, they will pay a fine of Rwf 300,000.
Meanwhile, MINICOM and other institutions have put in place an inspection committee for Kigali city and the countryside, checking trucks loaded with Irish potatoes from farms.
Jean Damascene Hamisi, the RCA Eastern Province representative, said that the registration goes with restructuring of well-managed Irish potato cooperatives as previous one failed to meet the standards.
He said that the majority of the cooperatives were a sham and those that were legitimate were poorly managed.
“Now, we want to amend the spirit of the cooperatives with new strategies. We want to establish bigger cooperatives with the capacity to give a 200,000 tonne yield per season. Also, they will be managed by specialists with the required qualifications who will be given contracts.
Each cooperative will have at least six hired staff and a well-known office. Also, under the agreement, staff will be held accountable for their mistakes,” he said.
Hamisi said that they will also have open elections of presidents of cooperatives and hire staff through an ordinary recruitment process.
Farmers commended the new strategy, but asked that RCA and other stakeholders monitor the implementation closely to make sure all merging issues are resolved in time to avoid the same disappointments.