KIGALI - Close to twenty pineapple growers’ representatives met with the Inyange Industries management, yesterday, and agreed on key resolutions to foster cooperation and prevent future dissatisfactions from either side.
The farmers, who are grouped in cooperatives, presented their grievances to the Board of Directors of the company, which included Prof Manasseh Nshuti, the Chairman of Crystal Ventures, the parent company of Inyange.
In response, Prof Nshuti assured the farmers that the problems would be resolved and he directed the food processing industry to immediately pay money owed to the farmers, which is in the excess of Rwf 3 million.
“We must work together as a team; those in the wrong must accept their faults and push towards better cooperation,” he said.
“This should never happen again. Inyange must improve its relationship with the people who supply it with raw materials. Cooperation must be efficient for both parties to understand each other and improve their services.”
Among key grievances forwarded by the farmers included the breakdown of the pineapple machine at Inyange Industry, which led the farmers to incur losses as they had to resort to local food markets, with no capacity to handle their products.
“When the machine gets technical problems, does it mean that we have to take back our pineapples? Who owns the pineapples in such circumstances? Do we own the pineapples until the juice is made or until they are transported into Inyange premises? We must sort out the issue of ownership,” said Jean Bosco Ndibwirende, the president of Copanaja, a farmers’ cooperative in Ngoma District.
He added that: “When we bring pineapples, we are made to sort the good from the poor quality ones. This is a difficult task which is supposed to be done by Inyange workers not us.”
Ignace Hategekimana, the president of Kowanamu Cooperative in Mugesera Sector, Ngoma District, said that Inyange must improve its efficiency by receiving the farmers on time.
“Usually, we arrive at the plant with the pineapples in the morning at 7AM, but because the sorting process takes two days to complete, we are made to wait until 8PM. Since we live very far, we are forced to wait and incur accommodation costs. On top of that, we are not paid on time,” he said.
The farmers also raised issues of the poor reception by particular employees of Inyange who dismiss them or refuse to attend to them on some occasions.
John Birungi, the CEO of Crystal Ventures, urged Inyange to get its own employees to carry out the pineapple sorting process.
“Farmers must also be educated about the quality of pineapples needed by the industry so that they reduce the losses they make when huge quantities are rejected,” he said.
“We must create a team made up of representatives from all concerned parties and develop a contract by next week. This contract will clearly state the duties, obligations and payment procedures which must be adhered to by both parties.”
The Finance and Administrative Manager of Inyange, Nick Barigye, assured the farmers that they would improve their operations but also urged them to build a sustainable supply chain.
“We have budgeted to purchase our own trucks to collect the pineapples. We are also planning to carry out the sorting process directly from the cooperatives’ collection centers in order to reduce the transport costs incurred by the farmers,” he said.
Currently, Inyange requires a supply of 40 tonnes of pineapples everyday; however, all cooperatives combined can only supply 4.7 tonnes per day.