The high rice prices will only fall if the major players in the rice industry work more closely to streamline production, supply and importation.
The statement was made by Ernest Ruzindaza, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Minagri) during a-one-day workshop on rice trade, last week. The meeting was attended by rice farmers, rice traders and rice processors.
A kilo of locally produced rice currently costs between Rwf650 to Rwf700, while imported rice goes for around Rwf900 a kilogramme.
Ruzindaza urged participants to find solutions to specific issues such as rice trade outside the umbrella of the various rice cooperatives and substandard milling machines. Rice trading outside cooperatives lead to limited grain availability on the market, while substandard mills lead to poor quality domestic rice.
“The Government is investing in the rice sector in order to increase the quality of domestic rice, while reducing imported rice. This can only be achieved if current rice marketing channels are streamlined”, Ruzindaza said.
Philip Runenera, an official with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Minicom) said that, despite the efforts that the formulation of the National Rice Policy, communicating proper trading systems to farmers and dealers, and confiscating the substandard milling machines; there were still some illegal rice mills machines in operation.
Jolly Dusabe, the Coordinator of the Rural Sector Support Project, said that out of the 47, 000 tonnes of rice produced in the last season, only 50 percent was collected through rice cooperatives and that out of that, only 21 percent was processed and sold as good quality milled rice.
“RSSP is committed to building farmers’ cooperatives capacity by providing skilled managers whose responsibility will be to ensure proper harvesting, post-harvest handling and rice collection at the cooperatives” Dusabe said.
She added that close monitoring of the rice value chain will help improve the quantity and quality of the rice produced in the future.
Philemon Ndungutse, a rice farmer from Nyamasheke District, asked Minicom and Minagri to fix rice prices every season in order to combat fluctuating prices.
According to Minagri statistics, Rwanda produces around 60,000 tonnes of rice per season, while national demand currently stands at about 89,000 tones.
Due to the shortfall, 44,645 tonnes were imported in the country, last year, according to Minicom figures.