Rwanda National Police (RNP) is holding nearly 50 people for allegedly inflating Irish potato prices and violating standard regulations meant to equally benefit all players in the business supply chain.
Those arrested in different parts of the country include traders, transporters and employees at potato collection centres, who were said to be conniving to cheat farmers and consumers.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry set standard guidelines to regulate the Irish potato business after it emerged that farmers were incurring gross losses at the hands of unscrupulous traders, who would also fraudulently make abnormal profits through hiked retail prices and cheating final consumers.
Under the new regulations, traders can only buy potatoes from collection centres managed by cooperatives of potato farmers; only collection centres should buy potatoes from farmers at a farm gate price of between Rwf135 and Rwf175 per kilogramme depending on the type; no consumer should pay more than Rwf250 at retail price; and traders should also have forms indicating the origin of the irish and signed by respective collection centres.
The suspects, who were paraded on Wednesday at Nzove collection centre in Kanyinya, Nyarugenge District, were allegedly caught violating these ministerial regulations meant to also bring order within the business and to particularly protect growers from making losses and fight fraud.
Particularly, some traders were allegedly buying from farmers at as low as Rwf60 per kilogramme and employees at collection centres would help them to fill the forms to make it look like they bought the irish from collection centres.
Police said it also intercepted at least 78 trucks in the past one month, transporting potatoes bought contrary to the set standards, including at least 50 intercepted in Musanze, 23 in Kigali and five in Rubavu.
The regulations also provide a penalty of between Rwf20,000 and Rwf2 million for each vehicle intercepted transporting irish potatoes contrary to the standards.
The Minister for Trade and industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, while addressing traders and transporters at Nzove collection centre, yesterday, shortly after parading the suspects, maintained that the “government remains committed to ensure that no one is cheated.”
Also present were ministers Francis Kaboneka for Local Government, and Geraldine Mukeshimana for Agriculture, as well as Inspector General of Police (IGP) Emmanuel K. Gasana, and Parfait Busangizwa, the vice mayor of the City of Kigali in charge of economic development.
“The regulations bring a win-win situation right from the farmer to the final consumer, ensuring no losses, and prevent fraud and speculations,” Minister Munyeshyaka said.
“These regulations were derived from deliberations we had with all stakeholders, including farmers and traders, they must be respected. If you have an issue, raise it through appropriate channels rather than flouting the rules and cheating people,” he added.
RNP spokesperson, Commissioner of Police Theos Badege reiterated the commitment of local authorities and security forces to ensuring that the established standards are adhered to.
“These arrests and impounding of the vehicles are part of the enforcement process, which will continue to ensure compliance,” CP Badege said.
“We have daily operations on highways and collection centres to ensure that standards are respected,” he added.