Agricultural growth is heavily affected by climatic variability. Imports of food items and consumer prices are very high beyond the reach of many citizens. Agricultural growth averages 4.2 per cent over 2001-05, below the target for PRSP1 of 5.3 per cent.
There is considerable variability from year to year which is linked to climatic shocks. Imports of food items, particularly for the urban market have increased 11.6 per cent during the period 2003-05, while annual percentage changes in consumer prices also registered high increases.
Overall trends in productivity of food crops are positive, although productivity trends for key food security crops are more concerning: production, in terms of area and yields in the sector has been boosted by cereals (in particular wheat and rice) and fruits and vegetables.
There has been strong government focus on these areas.
However, there has been consistently lower productivity for legumes, bananas and roots and tubers and even declines in terms of area cultivated for legumes, roots and tubers.
Food security continues to be a serious concern in terms of production, access and nutrition. Declining production of the major crops in terms of consumption and calorific content for rural areas: sweet potatoes, beans, banana, and cassava.
In 2002, Rwanda entered into food surplus for the first time in 8 years although results from season A in 2003 and 2006 have shown that this can be reversed.
Analysis of average per capita food intake (kilo calories and protein and lipids) shows that for the majority of Rwandans, they are permanently in deficit for all these criteria.
For children under 5 years of age: height for age has been increasing, the weight for height and weight for age have declined, indicating nutritional deficits.
Livestock numbers have increased by 60 per cent over the last 5 years, reaching pre-1990 levels in 2003/2004: Quality and disease control improved and production increased: Cattle have increased 43 per cent, goats 67 per cent, sheep 195 per cent, pigs 93 per cent, poultry 44 per cent and rabbits 67 per cent.
Livestock products have increased but demand still outstrips supply, especially for milk and eggs which contributes to food insecurity (lipid and protein intake).
Export earnings also upped because they were boosted by increased production and also improved quality.
Production of black tea increased 12 per cent considerably, exports increased 6 per cent for the period 2002-05 and with improved quality of leaves export earnings remained almost constant due to price changes.
Although there was an 11 per cent increase in the value of exports. Privatisation of the tea sector has been slower than anticipated.
Coffee production was cyclical and variable increasing in export earnings, exports overtook tea ($32.2 m).
In 2005, although production fell 35 per cent, export receipts were worth an additional 19per cent in value terms ($38.2m) and between 2004-05 Rwanda saw a 75 per cent increase in the average price per Kg of her coffee—from US$1.19 in 2004 to $2.08 – mainly from fully washed coffee.
The quality of standard coffee rose from 19.2 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2005; ordinary coffee decreased from 74.4 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent in 2005 and the share of fully washed coffee increased from 0.1 per cent to 6 per cent over the same period.
The production of hides and skins increased 60 per cent and values of exports also increased from $2.6 million to $4.7 million.
Pyrethrum production fell 24 per cent and export value fell 39 per cent although the price per kg in US dollars managed to increase slightly. Processing and export was limited by the energy supply.
Horticulture production— flowers, fruits and vegetables exported increased 27-37per cent with the exports average of 59 tonnes per week, mainly for regional markets.
Export volumes from high value horticulture for international markets remain significantly lower, around 2.5 tonnes per week.
However, with all this progress, agricultural growth rates remain highly variable and dependent on rainfall this is compounded by poor marketing and transport infrastructure.
There is continued land pressure because of high population densities, small, fragmented plots and a lack of intensive farming practices resulting in degradation of land and other natural resources.
The limited access to agricultural credit—estimated at 2-3 per cent of all lending there is, also no clear sector strategic plan until 2005: therefore there was weak planning and implementation.
There is urgent need to improve soil and water management, improving access to quality livestock, enhancing access to rural finance, and deliver on food security outcomes.
This will lead to long term agricultural development and foster economic growth.
Finally the agricultural sector needs emphasising the role of the agricultural services, small and medium enterprise (SME) development, trade and the provision of basic infrastructure – energy, rural roads and water – in raising productivity and boosting investment.