KIGALI - Rwanda expects to produce enough rice to satisfy the demand of its citizens and for export by 2018.
The confidence to achieve the target is backed by a new program dubbed, “National Rice Development Strategy” (NRDS), which was unveiled in Kigali yesterday.
Speaking at the launch, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ernest Ruzindaza, said that the country’s self-sufficiency in rice production currently stands at 70 percent
“We will no longer import rice for domestic consumption by 2018. We will be able to compete favourably on the regional and international market,” said Ruzindaza.
To achieve the goal, the program, which is sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, (JICA) will introduce many improved-farming practices in the rice industry.
They include availing better quality and quick maturing rice seeds to farmers.
The size of wetlands under rice production will be increased from 6,500 to 28,500 hectares.
The rice output will also increase from 5.8 tonnes of rice per hectare to seven tonnes in seven years.
Ruzindaza however expressed concern over local consumers’ preference for imported brands to home-grown rice.
“Even Rwandans themselves have no confidence in their rice. Some traders even pack Rwandan rice in bags labelled with Tanzanian rice to confuse customers and generate more sales.”
In a separate interview with The New Times, a Kimironko-based hotelier, Masomeri Kalisa, complained about the low quality of locally produced rice and advised the project to focus on improving it.
“Rwandan rice brands like ‘Kigori’ are terrible, and only those who cannot afford imported brands buy it. Let the strategy as well focus on quality as we look at improved quantity,” Kalisa said.
JICA country representative, Hiroyiki Kobayashi, noted that the strategy had been applied in several sub-Saharan countries, including Kenya, where it was a success.
NRDS is a flagship program under the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD), which was launched in Tokyo, Japan, in May 2008, with the aim of doubling rice production in sub-Saharan countries by 2018.