Farmers in Nyagatare District on Monday expressed disappointment at the government’s failure to market their maize harvest.
Until recently maize was not a staple food for Rwandans and as such small portions of farms were used to grow maize, for roasting and impungure.
From mid 1990s, maize became a common dish for many families and institutions, just like in other East African states like Kenya Tanzania and Uganda.
Strategies of production, storage and marketing of maize, rice, wheat and other grains is a crucial for food security, so when residents of Katabagema sector in Nyagatare district complained on Radio Rwanda and to their mayor that their harvest was going to waste, their concern was pertinent. It is usual for prices to fluctuate as a result of market forces of supply and demand, but there are levels that could drive farmers out of business if the department of Agriculture does not provide marketing and storage facilities.
One resident of Katabagema said that she had planted only maize on agasozi indatwa ( farms of excellence) and at the price of 50 frw offered by local traders, it was hard for her to buy beans for her family because of high prices compared to maize prices.
In the recent past the Ministry of Agriculture has done a good job modernizing agriculture, Rwanda’s main economic base with the introduction of consolidation of land use, providing selected seeds, fertilizers and animals to farmers as well as the introduction of mechanized agriculture.
With the assistance of extension workers, these innovations have been successfully implemented by most farmers throughout the country. For some time, as a result, the country produces surplus food, even areas that were traditionally prone to food scarcity. We need to sustain food suffiency.
I would have loved to pose the question raised by a Katabagema resident to Hon. Agnes Kalibata but she was in a meeting on Tuesday when I visited the ministry. With most of her senior staff also not available.
What can be done to make the said farmer plant maize next season after what he considers a big loss? I know the minister attempted to solve the Nyagatare farmers’s problem last month when she promised to get them buyers at a price of 120 fwr per kilo.
The mobilized maize traders instead of buying from local farmers crossed the boarder an bought the maize in Uganda at 90 fwr per kilogram, so the farmers felt let down. Despite the low price of maize to farmers today, however, the consumers in Kigali continue to pay high prices for maize flour at 350 frw a kilogram (Kimironko market price), indicating that the crop is valuable.
My friend Eddie, an expert in Agricultural Economic suggests a comprehensive marketing strategy especially for maize and beans which are relatively easy to store. “In Eastern Province, there are Silos.
The government can either store the produce for the farmers until prices pick up or buy the maize at the price agreed, store and later sell to millers, and other consumers, that’s the best way of protecting farmers without losing money” says Eddie adding that the profit made would cover administrative or handling costs.
While I totally agree with Eddie I wish to add that Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority(RADA )should have a comprehensive storage and marketing policy to increase farmers’ incomes and promote food security.
RADA should be able to predict production out put of certain crops and have a post harvest preservation and marketing plan in advance and when necessary buy storable food from the farmers for future retribution. That way farmer will be encouraged to plant the same crop without fear of loss.
In a related development diary farmers in the same district of Nyagatare have a problem marketing their milk. The price of milk is very low at 100 frw per liter, yet it is sold at 300 frw when transported to Kigali.
According to Mugisha, a cattle keeper in Rwimiyaga sector, the milk collection center takes a small percentage of the milk produced especially during the rain season, making it difficult for farmers to meet their obligations.
The major problem faced by these farmers is repayment of loans obtained to improve pasture and purchase diary cattle.
What is apparent is that there is lack of effective marketing policies, and if they are there, they are not efficiently implemented. On local markets you find all sorts of imported diary products, right from packed UHT milk, fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese, and many more.
With proper management and technical assistance from Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority, local farmers’ cooperative societies could invest in milk processing projects.
The farmers would then get ready market for their milk, higher prices and meaningful dividends from the cooperatives shares. Protect the farmer to ensure food security.