The local horticulture sector is to a huge boost with the impending entry of Kenya-based firm, Simon Flowers.
According to Ntwari Pie, the head of communications and public relations at National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB), 10 hectares of land have already been identified in Rulindo District, which the investor will lease for five years (initially).
The project is expected to start producing summer flowers for the export market by January next year, Ntwari added.
Floriculture was identified by government as a sector that could quickly improve export revenue. The flower sector was projected to bring in about $220 million (Rwf166.1 billion) by 2017, according to NAEB’s Rwanda Floriculture Development report for 2013. Therefore, the entry of another investor is a big boost to the country’s export industry as government tries to find ways of reducing trade deficit.
Ntwari said the Rulindo project is part of the wider plan to increase flower production to serve the lucrative flower market in Europe.
Simon Flowers will grow more than 10 varieties of summer flowers, including arabicum, tuberose and amaranthus, and is targeting to produce three million stems of flowers during the initial stages of the project, he added.
Summer flowers production was being done on more than 15 hectares in 2013, mainly in high altitude areas of Northern, Western and Southern provinces in Rulindo, Musanze, Rubavu and Huye. Ntwari said the initiative is part of the government’s strategy to increase the sector’s production as well as boost export volumes and revenue. It is also aimed at diversification of the export base.
NAEB is currently mapping land that is suitable for horticulture as it seeks more investors. The agency is targeting a total of 2,000 hectares that will be dedicated to export-oriented production by 2018.
The flower industry in Rwanda has been growing at a low rate of about 5 per cent of past over the past one or so years in terms of increased areas under flower production.
Late last year, another Kenyan-based company, Shalimar Flowers, signed a deal with government to develop the country’s struggling cut flower industry. The firm was expected to invest about Rwf2.7 billion into a cut rose project at the 35-hectare Gishari Flower Park project in Rwamagana District. The firm is yet to start producing cut roses as was anticipated. The Gishari project that was started by government was earlier expected to start production of cut flowers by mid-2012, but the venture was plagued by numerous challenges, including procurement delays and low funding. By the end of 2013, Rwanda was producing 1.4 million stems per year of summer flowers.
According to the Rwanda Floriculture Development report, this was expected to increase to over 54 million stems per year (worth €8 million - Rwf6.5 billion) by 2015, especially with more land being put under flowers, as well as improvement in agricultural practices and introduction of other high value flowers.
Presently, the export board is targeting to increase flower production to 44,000 tonnes per annum. The national export strategy targets to increase receipts from horticulture exports to $129.6 million by 2018, up from $10.7 million in 2013.
A new platform, Rwanda Horticulture Working Group, which seeks to attract more private investments into horticulture industry, was launched by NAEB recently. The platform also aims at stimulating dialogue among stakeholders, as well as promoting public-private 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.