Rwanda Revenue Authority, rice farmers and processors have resolved to phase out unauthorised small rice shelling machines.
The small machines are said to damage the quality of Rwandan rice which impacts negatively on its marketability.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on Tuesday in Kigali, Uzziel Niyonzima, the managing director of Mukunguri rice cooperative and secretary of the association of rice processors, said the small shelling machines have caused them losses.
He said: “Those shelling rice with the small machines sell at a very low price which has led the rice of those who shell from factories to stay longer in stores. The result is that we sometimes delay to pay farmers which has a negative effect in the next season.”
“Besides, the small machines undermine the quality of our rice as they do not remove sand or grade rice as it is done for the rice shelled in the factory.”
Currently, there are 22 authorised factories countrywide that shell rice while figures from the confederation of rice farmers show that there are 24 small machines countrywide.
Théogène Hakizimana, treasurer of the Union of rice farmers of Gisaka in the Eastern Province, said Rwanda Revenue Authority should trace and punish those using smaller machines because they evade taxes.
He said: “We are taxed accordingly yet, those using small machines do not pay taxes as they do not have any known location.”
According to 2012 Ministry for Trade and Industry instructions on rice processing and trading, only cooperatives of rice farmers are authorised to sell and distribute paddy rice to recognised rice processors.
They also state that no person shall be authorised to put in place a rice processing plant without authorisation from the Minister for Trade and Industry.
Aimable Kayigi Habiyambere, the commissioner for domestic taxes at RRA, said small machines not only impact negatively on the quality and price of Rwandan rice.
Without giving statistics, Habiyambere said a lot of money is lost through unauthorised and substandard machines.
He said collaboration with farmers and processors, illegal dealers would be weeded out by December.
Statistics indicate that the average rice yield per hectare stands currently at 5.5 tonnes. Rwanda produces about 55,000 tonnes of milled rice per season, two thirds of the current market demand. The country imported over 126,931 tonnes of rice between 2011 and June 2013.
The National Rice Development Strategy identified a catchment area of 2,700km2 receiving annual rainfall of 1500mm with 5,572ha of marshland in the Nyabarongo River suitable for rice cultivation. The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources plans to develop new marshlands (about7,000ha) across the country for rice cultivation and additional 23,000 ha developed for hillside farming.