The National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB) and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has said that when they introduced improved apple and mango verities 2010 and 2011, respectively, it was a means of bridging the fruit gap in the country.
Owing to fruit shortage in the country, dealers and processors have been resorting to imports to fill demand gaps.
However, for the fruits, mainly apple growing to give intended yield, there is a need for more investments, according to NAEB.
“These varieties were introduced in 2010. Both have shown positive results, but apples have shown to require more efforts in investment and tree management as farmers need to defoliate the trees to induce flowering and require special canopy management that both institutions are still training farmers, thus the delay in getting to more farmers faster,” NAEB’s horticulture division manager, Epimaque Nsanzabaganwa told Sunday Times.
Félicien Ndagijimana, agronomist for “Entreprise Urwibutso” – a Rulindo District-based company that makes fruit juice concentrates, said that the company needs at least 30 tonnes of passion fruit per week, but noted that they have to import half from Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
He noted that importation of the fruit results in high cost because a kilogramme of passion fruit grown in Rwanda is at about Rwf700 and Rwf1,200 for those imported.
In addition, the company needs five tonnes of strawberries per week, but it sometimes gets only two tonnes.
He said that they want to make apple products but expressed concern that they could lack competitiveness if the fruit imported. One apple costs between Rwf200 and 300 at the local market.
“There are many products such as juice and wine that can be made from apple; but because it is still imported and expensive, our products cannot be competitive on the market,” Ndagijimana said calling for efforts from both the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources and other stakeholders to promote the production of various fruits needed in agro-processing and other uses in the country, citing apple, grape, passion fruit and strawberry.
According to RAB, most fruits in Rwanda are avocado (mainly in Southern province in the districts of Huye, Gisagara and Ruhango); pineapple (Ngoma and Gakenke districts) and mango (mainly in Eastern province: Nyagatare, Kayonza and Bugesera districts).
NAEB’s Nsanzabaganwa noted that that apple produce in the country is ‘close to nil,’ noting that there are only apple trees under trial in RAB stations and a few farmers who planted some trees.
He said that not more than 20,000 apple trees have so far been introduced for trial.
According to Boniface Kagiraneza, director of horticulture research programme at RAB, apples can grow anywhere in the country. What was most important was the variety selection, as there are varieties that fit in middle altitude and others in high altitude and they were conducting research on different varieties.
Mangoes have shown good adaptability in warm regions of Rusizi and all parts of Eastern province, according to NAEB’s Nsanzabaganwa.
In 2015 and 2016, NAEB distributed about 250,000 trees in Eastern and Southern provinces adding that the two institutions follow up to ensure effective productivity of the trees.
Nsanzabaganwa noted that some fruit varieties such as orange with full orange colour, cannot be produced here because of their climatic requirements, which do not adapt to tropical environment.
Strategies to increase fruit production in the country
NAEB is investing in expansion of fruit production by developing quality planting material and facilitating farmers in production. Focus is on avocados, mangoes and pineapples.
Efforts to address fruit shortage include increasing planting material through establishment of new nurseries for citrus and mango in RAB stations and in some selected farmer’s fields.
Others are introducing and evaluating new species specifically of apple and pineapple; optimizing laboratory protocol in seedlings production (vitroplant) of tree tomato and passion fruit.
Moreover, Kagiraneza noted that they want to organise all stakeholders in fruit production (farmers, private, NGOs, public institutions (RAB and NAEB), processors, exporters) to work together and sharing information especially market demand (national/international).
As per Rwanda the Statistical Year Book by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), Rwanda exported 3,609,144 kilogrammes of fruits including avocadoes, Fruit Juices, ripe bananas, oranges, Pineapples, passion fruit, mangoes, strawberry, macadamia nut and other fruits and nuts for $1,258,146 in 2015-2016. This is less than the 1,748,317 it exported in 2014-2015 for $1,069,150.
However, it did not include how much fruit Rwanda imports.
But, according to fruit dealers, most of the mango and apple fruits being sold on the local market are imported from regional countries and South Africa.