The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) pledged to address challenges rice farmers in the districts of Gisagara, Huye and Nyanza, are facing in order to improve production.
Minister Francois Kanimba made the remarks on Friday while on a tour of Gisagara District, to assess the operations of rice cooperatives, technical and vocational skills development as well as the growth of the district in general.
Farmers expressed concern over lack of enough water which leads to low rice productivity especially during drought, and late disbursement of funds by financial institutions, which affects farmers and leads to poor yields.
“We have 80 hectares in Akanyaru River marshland which are redundant because the land has not been gazetted for rice growing. We ask government to help us gazette it so that we clear it and put it to use,” said Faustin Uwajyiwabo, the president of COPRORI, a rice farmers’ cooperative operating in Nyiramugeni Marshland.
“We harvest five tonnes from a hectare, yet we want to harvest at least seven tonnes per hectare, and we can only manage to do this if we have dams or water to irrigate rice during drought,” he added.
Jean Pierre Mushokambere, the president of UCORIBU, a union of rice farmer cooperatives in the districts of Gisagara, Huye and Nyanza said their rice is affected by floods during the rainny season while prolonged droughts leave their paddies dry.
He said the cooperative is growing rice on 2,360 ha per year and harvesting between 6,000 and 7,000 metric tonnes annually.
“Owing to climate threats, the average rice produce is six tonnes instead of seven. Our union consists of 10 rice cooperatives but only four have dams to irrigate their paddies. We want at least each cooperative to have a dam or an irrigation source in order to increase output,” he said.
Farmers also complained about the issue of low prices for their produce saying it is not commensurate with the effort they put into the farming activities.
For a kilogramme of rice, a farmer gets Rwf250, from which Rwf15 is deducted for the rice cooperative operation costs.
Minister Kanimba said rice is an important crop in the country.
“Rice growing should play an important role in the development of our country but the crop primarily helps the farmer develop, so you must get a better price because of the effort invested in its production,” Kanimba said
He also advised farmers to do all it takes to increase tonnage harvested per a hectare to raise their earning without necessarily increasing prices.
“Otherwise the Rwf250 per kilogramme of rice is enough and it is above the investment made by a farmer.”
He said financial institutions should give loans to rice farmers’ cooperatives so that they buy farmers’ produce on time.