MPs push for agricultural transformation

Members of the Chamber of Deputies have asked the Government to come up with serious plans to transform the country’s agriculture sector, suggesting that more tangible efforts need to be made to increase production and better link farmers to markets.

The legislators made the call yesterday as the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gérardine Mukeshimana, and the  Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, appeared before the lower house to explain the poor post-harvest handling of agricultural produce, its marketing, and value addition.

The MPs are pushing the ministers to give a timeline and roadmap on addressing the identified concerns in the agriculture and livestock sector value chains and be held accountable in the future if deadlines are not met.

At yesterday’s grilling, many MPs brought to the ministers’ attention a number of examples where investments in agriculture have become losses as produce such as wheat, maize, and milk don’t always get buyers often because they don’t meet the quality required by industrialists.

On the other hand, the road infrastructure to deliver the goods is not good enough and a problem where certain farmers have produce but can’t access markets becomes the challenge.

Then comes the issue of lack of insurance for agricultural activities and farmers are increasingly becoming accustomed to counting losses without anyone bailing them out.

MP Théogène Munyangeyo suggested that serious investments are made to ensure that research is done beforehand to ensure that proper guidance is given to farmers before they produce.

“Over 65 per cent of Rwandans are in the agriculture sector. There are a lot of things we need to get right. There is need for research to identify produce that is needed by the market and provide guidance on how to produce it,” he said.

A report done by the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment at the Lower House in November and December last year indicated that some agro-processing factories in the country worked below capacity.

They include Kinazi Cassava Plant in Southern Province, Rusizi and Nyamasheke rice factories in Western Province, and Soyco – a Kayonza District-based soybean processing plant in the Eastern Province.

Burera Dairy and Pembe Wheat Factory in Northern Province were also supposed to serve Gicumbi and Musanze districts but they still face challenges of getting quality produce they need.

The MPs’ report further noted that some factories, such as those dealing in rice, cassava, and maize, still had many products in their stores and had no markets for them, which was likely to prevent them from buying farmers’ produce in the next season.

A lot of locally produced maize is also not bought by major food processing factories mainly because of lack of quality, such as being affected by aflatoxins - toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize stored in humid places or stored in poor conditions. They instead import maize from other countries.

“It was clear to us that over 60 per cent of Rwandans who work in this (agriculture) area are in losses,” said MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa at yesterday’s session, quoting the MPs’ report.

In the on-going grilling, which will continue today in the morning as the two ministers are pushed to respond to all the questions and indicate plans to reverse the current situation, the MPs are asking the government to come up with tangible plans of what will be done to boost the agricultural sector.