Rwanda’s demand for fruits outpaces the supply, forcing the country to rely on imports especially for mangos, apples, and oranges.
Despite the shortage on the local market, Rwanda exported 8,667 tonnes of fruits between July 2019 and June 2020, generating over $7.5 million, according to figures from the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
This demonstrates the untapped potential for the nascent horticulture industry.
However, more farmers are now joining the industry after realising that there’s a steady demand for fruits.
“We are expanding our fruit farms due to the high demand,” said Justin Uwitonze, a passion fruit farmer in Nyakariro Sector, Rwamagana District.
Uwitonze, whose passion for fruit farming dates back to 2014, produces passion fruits on one hectare of land.
Given that his fortunes have been on an upward trajectory, he plans to buy extra land to expand his farm.
Others are turning to crops like oranges, mangoes, and avocados—which are resistant to drought and can last for up to 30 years before replanting.
“We started growing fruits for home consumption. We had never thought about it as a business,” said Cesaria Nyiransabimana who hails from Gihinga Cell in Rwinkwavu Sector.
Her neighbour, Anastase Munyaneza, started in 2016 with 1,100 orange trees. Today, he has two more hectares of 420 avocado trees.
According to Munyaneza, fruits are popular in Rwinkwavu because they are climate-resilient.
The margins for fruit farmers are partly driven up by the fact that they enjoy some government subsidies, including on seeds and fertilisers.
Last season, Munyaneza generated Rwf2.4 million from his new plantation.
“I am no different from someone with a decent job because not so many people get a salary equivalent to mine,” he says.
Capital intensive business
Some farmers say that the business is capital intensive – demanding a huge financial outlay and patience – which many are not willing to risk.
“It cannot work for you are not ready to keep investing in the business,” Munyaneza.
Mansuette Uwiseneza owns four hectares of passion fruits in Rwimbogo Cell in Nyakariro of Rwamagana District.
He says that he earns at least Rwf800,000 every week and employs 20 people on a permanent basis.
"We still have low fruit production because fruits demand huge investment and yet agriculture is considered to be a risky sector," he declared.
For Virginie Murebwayire, another farmer, the lack of access to information related to the incentives in the sector is still a challenge for most farmers.
“I want to expand so that others could at least come and learn from me,” she says.
Horticulture is among the industries that enjoy government and donor support.
Farmers who demonstrate the potential for growth can receive a grant equivalent to their investment while others receive seedlings to begin their agribusiness journey.
For instance, Uwitonze received a Rwf3 million loan from the bank and a grant worth Rwf3 million.
Murebwayire got a Rwf9 million grant and Rwf9 million loan. Munyaneza, on the other hand, received all the seedlings he has on the farm without any cost.
Pie Ntwari, a communication specialist at National Agricultural Exports Development Board (NAEB), told The New Times that most imported fruits can be produced locally.
In addition to the distribution of seeds, NAEB claims that it facilitates exporters to access the international market.Follow DeDiosNsabimana