Declining cassava production affected the export volumes of roots and tubers, Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) officials, have said. Dr Telesphore Ndabamenye, the head of crop production and food security department at RAB, said the crop was greatly affected by the cassava brown streak virus attack that destroyed many plantations.
According to the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) report for 2017, roots and tubers export earnings dropped 40 per cent last year compared to what was recorded the previous year. Rwanda’s total roots and tubers revenues decreased to $4.7 million (about Rwf4.1 billion) down from $7.9 million (about Rwf6.8 billion) in 2016. Volumes exported also dropped to 14,923,781 kilogrammes last year, from 25,437,136 kilogrammes the previous year, according to the report. During the year, Rwanda exported 74.11 per cent of its of roots and tubers to the DR Congo, dominated by cassava at 39.35 per cent and Irish potatoes (33.43 per cent). About 15 per cent went to Burundi, 9.28 per cent was bought by Uganda, while 0.92 per cent high quality cassava flour was exported to France, 0.66 per cent to the US and Belgium took 0.02 per cent.
Cassava output project to increase
Ndabamenye is optimistic that cassava production will increase this year and reach high levels in 2019. “We have been fighting cassava brown streak virus disease since 2014 and it’s over now. The biggest challenge was getting new seed for propagation,” Ndabamenye said in an interview with Business Times.
The official, however, added that they have already done seed multiplication “and we have enough planting materials for this year, which will mature next year”. “We expect a bumper cassava harvest by mid-next year”.
Sylvestre Kabengera, a cassava farmer and one of the technical supporters in cassava growing in Bugesera District, Eastern Province, said they are planning to plant the new variety of cassava in September 2018.
“September will be a good time for us because Meteo Rwanda announced little rains for Bugesera this season,” says Kabengera.
Bugesera usually plants over 7,000 hectares of cassava, but since 2014 it has not gone beyond 200 hectares due to the cassava disease which attacked over 90 per cent of roots and tubers in the country, according to NAEB.