The government has intervened in a standoff between tomato farmers and the tomato processing plant, SORWATOM, by agreeing to pay outstanding debt owed to the suppliers.
The tomato suppliers, who spent eight months without any pay, will receive Rwf330 million after Government reached an agreement with the shareholders of SORWATOM and ACCESS Bank, early this week
The company was unable to pay the farmers, who are grouped into 17 cooperative societies, representing close to 3,000 households.
“In the agreement between ACCESS Bank and shareholders of the factory, the bank will negotiate with a professional firm to manage the factory on its behalf; advance money to the new management to pay farmers and recover the money from the sale of available stock of tomato paste,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Trade and Commerce.
In an interview, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, said that it is the government’s obligation to intervene and ensure that the suppliers are paid, and at the same time, come to the rescue of the country’s only tomato processing plant.
“We have negotiated with the bank to give a loan to the SORWATOM in order to pay their suppliers because we don’t want this company to close.”
The money, she said, should reach the farmers by the end of this month.
Nzansabaganwa further observed that there is need to look for a new investor who will take over the tomato processing company.
“We realized that the current management caused financial problems and cannot continue handling the company; therefore, we are strategizing to get a new investor to take it over,” the minister said.
Silvestre Sibomana, one of the tomato suppliers, welcomed the government’s intervention saying that he had lost hope.
“I’m absolutely happy that finally, the government has heard our complaints and intervened; I had given up on this money, but today, the minister assured us and I am optimistic that with the intervention, we shall get our money,” he told The New Times.