Musanze-based potato processing plant, which produces the Winnaz Crisps brand, is set to scale up its production capacity five-fold, officials have said.
This follows major upgrades of the plant for both its frying and packaging lines.
Located in Gacaca sector in Musanze District, the factory is co-owned by a Dutch company, Hollanda Fair Foods Limited, and a Rwandan investor.
It manufactures high end crisps from a selected variety of Irish potatoes.
Launched three years ago, the factory has had capacity of producing only two tonnes, which according to its managers, was below the supply capacity.
According to Thijs Boer, the Managing Director of the factory, they want to provide world class healthy crisps to satisfy the appetite of domestic and regional snack-eaters.
The upgrade is a result of partnership between the factory and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth Project (PSDAG).
“We can produce for the market at least 10 tonnes per day,” Boer said during the launch of upgraded factory Wednesday, stressing that the total investment is worth $1million.
“We are now focusing on the market in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda, where we export 60 per cent of our product. However, there is fierce competition in Kenya but this is a positive challenge for us as we continue to strive for the regional market leadership,” he said.
Boer hailed the government for facilitating them in their endeavour through collaborations with different institutions.
“We have upgraded our packaging and our frying lines and that means we need less oil to produce our crisps, the factory was also semi-automatic but it is now fully automatic,” he said.
He said that the factory intends to work with farmers’ cooperatives, especially women’s, to use waste from the factory to fabricate soaps to ensure zero waste in the factory.
USAID facilitated Hollanda Fair Foods to invest in upgrading its Irish potato processing facility to meet domestic and export market demand and quality requirements.
The support has contributed to the introduction of four new Winnaz potato chip products to domestic and export markets, increased incomes for potato farmers in Musanze and increased annual export sales, he said.
Hollanda Fairfoods also secured a contract to supply RwandAir, according to the officials.
“USAID is sensitive to the needs of smallholder farmers. Supporting Hollanda Fair Foods and other agribusiness is a critical investment USAID makes to increase farmers’ productivity and incomes. This partnership will ultimately help farmers achieve great results.” said USAID Rwanda Acting Mission Director Leslie Marbury.
Farmers and other stakeholders welcomed the development saying it would help them sell more produce to the factory and keep equipping them with best farming practices so as to avail quality produce.
“I started working with this factory two years ago and this has helped me both in improving produce and benefitting from it, I have signed a contract with the factory and, last year I supplied 25 tonnes but our current contract is to supply 40 tonnes,” said Honoré Tuyishime, one of the farmers.
Unlike unstable prices that have affected potato farmers over the past few months, Tuyishime says the factory buys at a better price ranging from Rfw240 to Rwf 280 per kilogramme.
According to Fred Mugabe, the Industry development policy officer at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the government prioritises agro-processing sector and the upgrade means that more produce will be processed, helping farmers get market for their produce.