Farmers are set to benefit from the Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a food processing factory that was unveiled Wednesday.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the plant, various officials said the Kigali Special Economic Zone-based factory will be fed by raw materials produced locally.
Officials said sourcing raw materials from local farmers is a key element that will benefit not only the producers but the country as well as the manufacturer.
However, it was noted that local farmers still lack the capacity to satisfy the needs of the factory.
AIF Rwanda is a joint venture between the Government of Rwanda and a consortium of four international partners; Royal DSM, Dutch development bank-FMO, CDC Group plc (the UK government’s Development Finance Institution) and IFC.
The factory started operations in 2016. This year, AIF expects to hit a production output of at least 35,000 tonnes. But to achieve the target, the factory will need about 23,000 tonnes of maize and 7,000 tonnes of soya from both local and regional suppliers.
According to Fike Sijbesma, the chief executive of Royal DSM, the plan is to ensure the raw materials, mainly soya beans and maize, are sourced locally, and to make Rwanda a regional food hub.
“The concept is that the staple food (maize and soya) should come from Rwanda and that we manufacture it here and sell it via the Government, World Food Programe and other partners.
“We are going to help farmers, we are going to educate them and help them to become as competitive as possible,” he added.
The Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, said there is need to first sensitise the farmers so that they understand the significance of the factory in changing their lives.
“What we have been doing is to make sure that we sensitise the producers enough to understand the benefits of this plant to them,” she said.
“Some of them are proud to see the product come into the communities and yet they know there is low supply of locally produced materials. As any factory, you may not get everything you need in the first months of operation but you build a relationship as you grow.”
Malnutrition remains a key public health concern in Rwanda, especially among children under five, according to officials.
In an effort to address the concern, AIF Rwanda produces highly nutritious porridge flour with added milk, vitamins and minerals targeting vulnerable population segments such as pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, older infants and young children, especially in the first 1,000 days of their lives.
Amar Ali, the AIF chief executive, said the objective is to source every raw material locally.
“We are here, we exist, we are real and we are having a conversation about how we can really expand maize and soya production in Rwanda,” he said.
The $60 million factory is expected to produce 45,000 tonnes of nutritious foods annually, enough to boost exports and prevent child malnutrition in Rwanda.