There is need for public private partnerships to achieve desired food production levels to ensure food security in the country, members of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance have said.
The senators were on Wednesday meeting with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) officials to assess agriculture sector performance.
They cited the current shortage of potato seeds on the market with a kilogramme of the seeds currently going for Rwf600. They pointed out that the shortage could be addressed with public private partnership.
This is part of the senators’ outreach tour of the country’s 30 districts to assess agriculture sector performance vis-à-vis the set targets under the government’s 7-year programme (2010-2017).
According to RAB, improved seeds capacity stands at only about 20 per cent against 100 per cent target under the government’s 7-year programme.
RAB acting Director General, Dr Daphrose Gahakwa, explained that even the 20 per cent of improved seeds are in research areas with only 5 per cent distributed among seeds multipliers.
The senators said there is need to understand the challenges facing potato seed development in the country so as to advise on how the set target can be achieved.
Senator Evariste Bizimana, called on RAB to seek ways to partner with the University of Rwanda’s College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine to involve the academia in the framework of potato seed development.
“The problem is that only RAB is working in the area of potato seed research. In fact, it is those graduates who will come to work in RAB, who will come and engage in that seed multiplication,” he said.
Senator Consolée Uwimana, advised RAB to sign an agreement with the potato seed multipliers and follow up on them to ensure that they provide enough seeds.
Dr Gahakwa said unlike cereal seeds where for instance 25 kilogrammes of maize are sowed on one hectare-piece of land, it needs between two and three tonnes of Irish potato seeds for one hectare-piece of land, which is a challenge.
She said about four tonnes of maize can be harvested per hectare, while it is about 20 tonnes per hectare for potatoes.
If the 20 percent of improved seeds that are available are effectively multiplied, she said, it can address seed issue.
But she also acknowledged that the issue of potato seeds cannot be addressed by RAB alone but collectively.
In an interview with The New Times, Isaac Nzabonimpa, the president of the Federation of Potato farmers cooperatives in Rwanda, said the effects of climate change have worsened the issue of potato seed shortage as it affected production.
Nzabonimpa noted that, a kilogramme of Irish potatoes is about Rwf600, yet it used to cost between Rwf300 and Rwf450.
“As result, because [some] farmers have gotten bank loans to grow potato or multiply it, they resorted to selling all their produce including what would be seeds for them to be able to service the loan and continue farming business,” he said.
He noted that RAB has started initiatives to engage the private sector in potato seed multiplication, a move he said should be promoted to ensure sustainable seed availability.
On average, Rwanda harvests over 2 million tonnes of Irish potatoes annually, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.