A wholesale market to be constructed at Kigali Special Economic Zone in Gasabo District is expected to reduce post-harvest losses by improving logistics planning, quality control, and storage of fruits and vegetables, officials have said.
Current projection estimates on the market cost are around Rwf20 and Rwf25 billion.
The Kigali Wholesale Market will provide new additional services like cleaning, grading, possibly drying, and cold storage that increases product life and reduce the loss of unsold products.
In the current concept, it is estimated that the market will have a capacity of [handling] up to 180,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables per year, and accommodate up to 100 wholesalers, according to estimates from the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
Officials said that if all goes well, ground-breaking for the market will begin early next year. The project is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
The initial idea to set up the market was proposed in 2010. Officials from MINAGRI and NAEB argued that the slow progress in its establishment was due to the fact that the government wanted to ensure that thorough studies and analysis were conducted, and verified, prior to the project’s implementation.
Gérardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources told Sunday Times that it is designed to act as a catalyst that will bring more professionalism to Rwanda’s fresh produce sector both for local supplies and for regional exports.
“It provides an opportunity for farmers, cooperatives and rural traders to have greater market connectivity to high-value markets both within and outside Rwanda, and put in place greater price transparency and e-Commerce options, while improving standards and more reliable product quality,” Mukeshimana observed.
Reducing post-harvest losses
An assessment made by Rwanda Agriculture Board, the University of Rwanda, and NAEB in 2017, showed that more than 40 per cent of fruits and vegetables produced are lost before reaching the end-user (consumer).
This issue, the assessment explained, is because of lack of knowledge and skills about good agricultural practices and appropriate materials for handling fruits and vegetables.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), fruits and vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
FAO indicates that global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30 per cent for cereals, 40-50 per cent for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20 per cent for oilseeds, meat and dairy, and 35 per cent for fish.
Paul Rusingizandekwe, a tomato farmer in Kagitumba valley in Nyagatare District told Sunday Times, he harvests about 250 baskets of 120 kilogrammes each (or 30,000 kilogrammes) per hectare per season but loses between 20 baskets (2,400 kilogrammes) and 30 baskets (3,600 kilogrammes) of that yield.
He said that a 120-kilogramme basket of tomatoes costs Rwf50,000. However, he said, sometimes, it is sold at five times less for fear that farmers might incur total losses when the tomatoes get rotten.
“Currently, we do not have a ready market for our tomato produce; we just struggle to retail it in various parts of the country. If we get a ready market, we are assured of protection [as farmers],” he said adding that [ripe] tomatoes are very perishable as they deteriorate after three or four days of harvest.
“So, such a facility is of great help for us,” he said.
Linking farmers to buyers
In addition to improving linkages and logistics of produce coming from rural areas, aggregation points and markets, officials said that the Kigali Wholesale Market will provide a modern and clean environment where food service business, food manufacturers, restaurants, hotels and regional exporters can find high-quality fresh produce.
It will also have small retail to supply fresh produce to families looking to buy high-quality products in a clean, well-lit, and safe environment.