A new initiative aimed at boosting horticulture production, quality and exports has been launched by the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) and sector stakeholders.
The Rwanda Horticulture Working Group also seeks to attract more private investments into horticulture industry, as well as stimulate dialogue among stakeholders, George William Kayonga, the NAEB chief executive officer, said.
According to Kayonga, the group will provide a platform to promote more public-private sector partnerships in the sector to help expand the country’s horticultural sector.
The initiative is also expected to play a key role in provision of advisory services, especially on best agricultural practices, post harvest handling of fresh produce, and marketing.
“This collaborative organisational structure will enhance dialogue and help find ways on how to make the sector more productive and ensure quality along the value chain, which is key to sustainable development of horticulture industry,” Kayonga said.
According to the National Export Strategy, the horticulture industry is expected to fetch more than $129 million per year by 2018, from current $10 million.
Edwin Musabyimana, a Nyamagabe-based farmer, noted that to achieve such an ambitious target, the sector requires strong partnerships and co-operation between the public and private sectors along value chain.
Wilhelmine Bora, the chairperson of Professional Horticulture Farmers Association in Rwanda, said empowering the private sector to effectively and efficiently engage in the volatile horticulture export market should be given top priority.
“It is, therefore, important that the new platform also focuses on capacity building to enhance the skills of smallholder producers of export crops,” Bora said, noting that high interest rates on bank loans was also crippling the industry’s growth.
Currently, there are only four horticulture collection centres across the country, and one cold room at Kigali International Airport.
NAEB says it is currently trying to transform a warehouse at its head offices into a horticulture pack-house, where exporters can sort and package produce before it is exported.
Last year, the agro-exports body announced plans to build a modern horticulture centre at Mulindi in Gasabo District to help small-scale farmers acquire skills, market information, as well as package fresh fruits and vegetables.
Speciose Mukashema, the president of the Kimironko Twitezimbere Co-operative, which specialises in horticulture produce, said the new initiative should help fast-track these projects to benefit farmers and exporters.
Meanwhile, NAEB started mapping and profiling land that is suitable for horticulture, which will be availed horticulture investors next year, according to officials.The target is to have at least 2,000 hectares dedicated to export-oriented production by 2018.
According to NAEB, stalled Gishari Flower Park project in Rwamagana District is expected to start production by the end of the year. The project is under Bella Flowers Limited.