A consortium of 12 local investors has been leased up to 5,000 hectares of land in Bugesera District to carry out modern commercial cattle farming and beef production.
The 5,000 hectares of land, according to minutes of a Cabinet meeting that was chaired by President Paul Kagame earlier this month, was leased out to the investors in the quest to scale up beef production in the country.
Speaking to The New Times, Dr Théogène Rutagwenda, director-general of animal resources at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), said the investors have already started preparing pasture through planting fodder before the cows can be brought in.
According to Rutagwenda, the envisaged farmland is expected to have at least 1200 cows slaughtered per year in each of the 13 blocks in which they will be kept, and with each cow expected to produce an average of 160 kilogrammes, the annual harvest will be over 2.4 million tonnes from the entire project.
Although there are no specific statistics on beef, the current production of meat in the country, according to figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board, is at 86,000 tonnes per year, going by the 2015 production.
The new project, once it kicks off, is expected to surpass, by far the initial target government had set for meet production, which was 230,000 tonnes by 2018.
Rutagwenda said, under the envisaged intensive beef production project, the cattle will be taken into the feedlots and intensively fed such that after 120 days, they would be ready for slaughter.
“The cattle will not be sent to graze, rather, they will be provided with feeds and they will not do anything else apart from eating and drinking, which increases weight,” he said, adding that a cow is capable of gaining at least a kilogramme per day under intensive feeding system.
Speaking about how the Government will benefit from the project, Rutagwenda said the project will result in increased meat production and availability of beef on the local market.
He said the plan is to boost beef exports and help reduce the trade deficit the country is currently faced with. According to Rutagwenda, the project’s proximity to the planned Bugesera International Airport, whose construction has already started, will ease the process.
Modest Nkikabahizi, the in-charge of agribusiness investment at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), told The New Times that the investors had expressed interest to use the land more productively, which prompted the Government decision to lease it out.
This, according to Nkikabahizi, is the process any investor who could be interested in exploiting government land is required to observe.
“When they feel that they have capacity to meet the Government’s expectations, they sign a lease agreement,” he said.
However, Nkikabahizi noted that the investors have to present a business plan that details the project objectives, and how the project will be undertaken.
In a brief interview with The New Times, Alfred Nkubiri, one of the investors who got the land lease, said in implementing the project, they intend to work with the Development Bank of Rwanda.
However, he could not go into the specifics of the project and how they intend to work with the bank.
Meanwhile, the project will supplement another one in the same area called Gako Integrated Beef Project which is expected to cost over Rwf3.4 billion and is being undertaken by the Ministry of Defence and MINAGRI.
It is being implemented by Agro-processing Trust Corporation (APTC), a company under the Ministry of Defence.
The Gako integrated beef project kicked off operations in October 2015 and it includes a modern slaughterhouse worth over Rwf300 million.
By 2018, the project targets at least 3,000 head of cattle for beef production.
The per capita meat consumption in the country is estimated at over 6 kilogrammes per person per year, which falls below the Food and Agriculture Organisation recommendation of 10 kilogrammes.