Farmers in the Eastern Province have appealed to government to support their efforts to export finished products rather than raw materials.
They said this while talking to government leaders and Private Sector Federation (PSF) officials who visited the ongoing trade show in Kibungo Sector, Ngoma District on Wednesday.
Exhibitors from East Africa and Asia joined local farmers and businesspeople in the trade show.
Musa Kayitana, a pepper grower in Gatsibo District, said they were making less profits by exporting raw materials.
“When we export crops like maize grain and pepper, they in turn find their way back into country as imports with value added to them,” he said.
“It is a sad reality that we buy the goods we export cheaply as raw materials when they brought back as imports.
These commodities are usually expensive.
‘‘A farmer cheaply sells sugarcane and ends up buying sugar, at a very high price. So, whatever they earn will at the end be spent on purchasing already processed goods. This cycle has perpetually left us in poverty,” he said.
Jennifer Mukamusoni, the chairperson of a maize growers’ cooperative in Kirehe District, said farmers should be facilitated to set up a maize mill in every sector.
“Once we mill our maize locally, we are also assured of lots of by-products such as feeds for our poultry, and livestock. This will also make these products affordable for consumption,” she said.
Rose Dusabe, in charge of cooperative and investment in Kayonza District, reiterated their commitment to increasing Rwanda’s foreign exchange.
Dusabe however, complained that some farmers still resisted joining cooperatives.
“Organising small farmers into cooperatives has long been our common development intervention to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis other actors in the value chain. They unfortunately shy away from joining cooperatives, through which they can access loans to buy processing machines, to sell semi-finished or finished products,” she said.
The chairperson of Private Sector Federation in the Province, Fabrice Habanabakize assured them of the commitment to support farmers.
He said a successful transition to this new level of exporting finished products requires the acquisition of particular managerial capacities, especially in the domain of collective entrepreneurship.
“The government’s desire to empower small farmers has not changed. Cooperatives must however, take on a more pro-active role in marketing, updating their organisational structure and engaging in value chain integration,” he said.
The province is known for its high production of cereals, bananas and milk.