A new initiative that seeks to increase rice production, ensure quality along the value chain; and ease access to agro-inputs has been unveiled by Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab).
Chantal Ingabire, the in-charge of research and rice farmers welfare at Rab, said the Rice Sector Development Hub will bring together stakeholders, including farmers, dealers, private sector and researchers to share information and look for ways on how to improve production, quality and help farmers get quality seeds and market.
Rice is one of the main staple foods in Rwanda and has been identified as a priority crop by government.
The crop is grown in many parts of the country by farmers in co-operatives and individuals on both commercial and subsistence basis.
Ingabire also said efforts are underway to increase acreage under rice from 15,000 hectares to 65,000 hectares by 2018 to ensure the country becomes a net rice producer.
“Rab will help farmers access quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. We will also train farmers in post-harvest handling to reduce the incidence of broken rice; and support them to get irrigation equipment,” she added.
Innocent Musabyimana, the Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary, said last week the new centre will help farmers access improved seeds and market.
Statistics indicate that the average yield per hectare is at 5.5 tonnes of rice currently. Rwanda produces about 55,000 tonnes of milled rice per season, which is two thirds of the present market demand. the country imported over 126,931 tonnes of rice between 2011 and June 2013.
Meanwhile, farmers who talked to The New Times say they still face a lot of challenges despite earlier Rab interventions, especially accessing water for irrigation and improved seeds. They also complain of poor prices.
Ignace Gahutu from Korika Co-operative in Jabana sector, Gasabo District, said the group sells the cereal in Rwamagana District at Rwf245 per kilogramme (of unprocessed rice). Processed rice costs Rwf700 a kilo, which farmers say is too low considering the time and money invested in.
Farmers in Rusizi sector sell a kilo of unprocessed rice at Rwf235, according to Kampire Rusiya from Imbanzabigwi Co-operative.