Demand for soya beans in the country could more than double as a new food processing plant, nears completion.
The baby food processing plant owned by the Export Trading Group of Investments will start operations before the end of the year, Innocent Musabyimana, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources permanent secretary, said.
The plant, located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone, will have capacity to process 10,000 tonnes of soya beans per month, he added.
There has been concern that there is inadequate soya to meet current market demand. However, Musabyimana said the government has already secured land, and is working with farmers co-operatives to ensure sustainable supply of soya beans to satisfy market needs.
“We have already identified 3,000 hectares of land that will be used to grow soya beans. So agro-processors should not worry about supply of raw materials.”
“The opening of another soya processing factory presents farmers a huge opportunity, which they should seize and increase production to improve their income and livelihoods,” Musabyimana said during a press conference at the Ministry of Agriculture head office in Kacyiru.
Alex Ruzibukira, the director general for investments at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said the new plant will help reduce importation of baby foods, “but also enable Rwanda to export the food products across the region.”
It is, however, not clear how much government has invested in the soya bean growing programme. According to Ruzibukira, the government is facilitating the investor to commence production as soon as possible.
“We are providing the investor a facility in the special economic zone and will also create a linkage between the processor and farmers co-operatives so that they work together to ensure steady supply of raw materials, including soya beans, maize and other grains,” Ruzibukira said.
“We are also confident that the plant will, not only generate revenues for the country, but also create employment opportunities for Rwandans,” Ruzibukira said.
Currently, a kilogramme of soya goes for Rwf450.
Meanwhile, a source at Ministry of Trade and Industry revealed that farmers, through their co-operatives, could soon be linked to a long-term loan facility, worth Rwf6 billion, to increase productivity of some of these raw materials. About 6,000 farmers are already growing soya beans, with land under the crop estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000 hectares.
A total of 7,000 hectares of soya beans is expected to be cultivated by the end of the year, according to crop production targets by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mount Meru Soyco Limited, a public-private partnership firm, based in Kayonza, is currently the sole major processor of soya beans in the country, making edible oil and animal feeds.
Rwanda currently imports about 30,000 tonnes of edible oil estimated at $42 million, besides animal feeds.
The firm that was established in 2012 seeks to reduce this and also export some of its products to Burundi, the DR Congo, Uganda and Kenya.