The private sector has been urged to invest in cross-border market infrastructure to facilitate regional trade.
Francois Kanimba, the Minister for Trade and Industry, said the approach could also help foster and strengthen formal trade in border areas.
He revealed that a feasibility study to construct six more cross-border markets has been completed, challenging the business community to seize opportunity and invest in the project.
Kanimba was addressing the business community and maize farmers at Rwempasha border post in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province over the weekend.
He urged the private sector in these areas to form a company and invest in Kagitumba and Rwempasha cross-border markets, arguing that this would enable them benefit more from the growing regional trade.
Storage facilities needed
Meanwhile, maize farmers in the area said lack of enough storage facilities has resulted into huge post harvest losses and reduced earnings.
Sam Rubagumya, a maize farmer and a committee member of Nyagatare Maize Farmers Co-operative, said though they expect maize yields for the current season to reach over 4,000 tonnes, the co-operatives do not have enough storage facilities.
The farmers also called on the government to increase the minimum price for maize, saying the Rwf160 per kilo set last year is inadequate compared to the cost of production.
“The Rwf160 minimum price per kilogramme of maize is lower than the production cost per unit, especially when you consider the price of fertilisers, labour and seeds,” Jerôme Nsanzabaganwa, a maize farmer, said.
However, Wenceslas Bahati, the director general of the Rwanda Grains and Cereals Corporation, dismissed the farmers’ claims, arguing that the set price factored in all costs, and “is favourable to both dealers and farmers”.
“We regulate prices so that both dealers and farmers can benefit from the business. Besides, a countrywide survey we conducted recently revealed that maize production cost varies between Rwf120 and Rwf140 per kilo across the country,” Bahati explained.
Kanimba said the minimum price curbs farmer exploitation and illegal maize trade.
Kanimba noted that the growing regional demand for maize, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, presented dealers opportunities; adding that without a minimum price farmers would be cheated by unscrupulous traders.
“That’s why the Ministry of Trade and Industry and stakeholders set the minimum price for maize at Rwf160 per Kilogramme,” Kanimba said.
Tony Nsanganira, the State Minister for Agriculture, urged farmers to work through co-operatives and increase production to realise better earnings.
“Proper post-harvest handling will help ensure quality along the maize value chain and reduce post-harvest losses,” Nsanganira said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that maize production has increased from 175,000 tonnes in 2008 to about 575,000 tonnes in 2012, and is expected to reach highs of 900,000 tonnes this year.