Banks urged to support agro-processing industry

Banks have been urged to support government’s efforts to fund ventures that add value to agricultural produce under the Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project.
Frank Ntabana (right), a mango farmer in Eastern Province, inspects the fruits. Value addition presents farmers many opportunities.
Frank Ntabana (right), a mango farmer in Eastern Province, inspects the fruits. Value addition presents farmers many opportunities.

Banks have been urged to support government’s efforts to fund ventures that add value to agricultural produce under the Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project.

Raphael Rurangwa, the director general in charge of planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, said farmers and agro-processors should be supported by financial sector to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure stakeholders benefit more from agro-enterprises. Rurangwa said, under the programme, farmers and co-operatives with bankable projects will be given loans and grants to develop them (enterprises).

“There is, however, need to support the initiative in an efficient and sustainable manner,” he said.

Rurangwa was speaking during a sensitisation workshop on the benefits and business opportunities the project presents bankers in Kigali on Wednesday.

He added that farmers and small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) with bankable projects will benefit from a 40 per cent loan guarantee. The project was launched in March 2014 to promote agribusiness and reduce post-harvest losses.

So far, post-harvest losses have dropped from 30 per cent to 10 per cent, according to the agriculture ministry. The government targets to reduce it further to less than 5 per cent. Post-harvest losses is one of the main challenges facing agriculture production and marketing.

Under the Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project, farmer co-operatives are equipped with skills on how to reduce post-harvest losses of produce through regular training. This has improved knowledge on post-harvest produce handling and storage among farmers.

About 1,140 farmers from 38 co-operatives from 11 districts have so far been trained under the programme.

Pierre Célestin Habyarimana, a consultant, said farmers still face huge challenges, especially lack of market linkages and storage facilities despite this support.

“We must move fast to provide farmers appropriate bags for packaging, processing units and more skills, especially in value addition,” Habyarimana told The New Times.

This is where financial institutions must play a critical role, he added.

business@newtimes.co.rw

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