The 30 metric tons cold room facility has been redundant since 2008. So, who should bear the responsibility of the Rwf500 million investment facility that is lying idle at Kigali International Airport?
The facility was established two years ago to promote Rwanda’s horticulture exports, especially fruits and vegetables.
Initially exporters consistently complained that government was charging them highly to use the cold room, meaning it was less attractive to business.
The low demand for the facility is also attributable to the small market for Rwanda’s horticulture produce, minimal investments in agribusiness, high costs involved in air transport as well as limited awareness among the business community.
However, RwandAir has promised to increase cargo space in its upcoming aircraft which will operate the Kigali-Dubai route. The move by the national carrier is expected to trim cargo flight costs and also boost horticulture exports.
The management of the facility has expressed concern that the rate at which exporters are utilizing the facility is inadequate and below the predetermined levels.
Lambert Nyoni, the Director General of Magerwa says that the campaign has been ongoing and that this will create demand for the cold room in the near future.
“We are still sensitising the business community to utilise the facility but nothing positive has happened as yet,” Nyoni said.
This clearly indicates that there is a blame game between government and dealers in the horticulture industry.
However, it appears that government is not to blame for this failure.
Dr. Ndambe Nzaramba, Director General of Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA) told Business Times that government is engaged in different dialogues with the private sector through workshops; and using the cold room is always on top of the agenda.
“The willingness is there but we can not tell when it will be in use. The cold room is now open for rent as plan B targeting meat and fresh animal products,” Nzaramba told business times.
Nzaramba said the prices charged at the refrigerated facility are negotiable and depend on a number of items like quality and duration of products to be stored.
Available information suggests that an exporter pays Rwf36 per kilogram while government through the Ministry of Agriculture covers the remaining costs to encourage exports.
“I believe that there is room for interested exporters, and not using the cold room doesn’t mean that we don’t export, Nzaramba said.
Pipian Hakizabera, Head of Trade and Manufacturing in Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said that the issue is not lack of market and challenged those with produce, especially agro-products to register and export to UK and Canada.
“I do not think the overseas market is the problem, because we have requests from the UK and Canada for agricultural products,” he said.
Hakizabera said the challenge to Rwandan products on the international market has been standards, especially with regard to food products.
“Traditionally, we have concentrated on market identification but we need to move down to the enterprise to increase production and improve quality, he added.
He mentioned cases where the market was identified, yet the volume and standard of products required could not be met.