In a bid to enhance production of high quality rice, the government has called upon rice farmers, traders and processors to join hands in combating the use of the illegal rice mills in the country.
The call was made by Gaudence Mukamurenzi, the Acting Director of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industries (MINICOM) in an interview with The New Times yesterday.
Mukamurenzi noted that some unscrupulous traders were in possession of illegal rice mills in various parts of the country, citing the Southern Province as the worst hit.
She said that the ministry had put in place a ministerial order that clearly spells out how to carry out the rice trade in the country that directs rice farmers to process their produce solely at Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) authorised mills.
The official disclosed that MINICOM, in partnership with MINAGRI, recently undertook a crackdown against the use of illegal mills and confiscated a number of them.
“The use of the substandard rice milling machines is a major challenge still facing the rice sector, because it compromises the quality of rice we produce in the country since the machines break down rice grains during the processing period,” Mukamurenzi stated.
She noted that her ministry had registered all rice traders and millers as one of the measures to halt the practice, and urged farmers to strive for production of high quality rice and sell their produce through cooperatives.
Mukamurenzi noted that most of the illegal mills are normally used during the night, adding that MINICOM and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) would continue to execute various national campaigns to encourage stakeholders to desist from such irregularities.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The New Times yesterday, the Coordinator of the Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) Jolly Dusabe, said her institution, in partnership with others bodies, would put in place measures to dissuade rice farmers from selling rice to unregistered millers.
She noted that they RSSP would link rice cooperatives to banks and other micro finance institutions to enable them pay farmers, a move that she said, would prevent farmers from selling their produce to people with illegal mills.
“Illegal milling machines have affected the whole rice trade in the sense that the Rwandans need to eat local rice, but somehow this has not been possible because a big portion of the rice produced in the country is processed through the black market, which leads to a price increase,” Dusabe said.
She pointed out that only 20 percent of rice in the country is currently produced through bona fide processing channels, adding that RSSP would continue to mobilise farmers to sell their produce to registered rice cooperatives which would in turn sell it to the rice factories for processing.
According to statistics from MINAGRI, Rwanda produces around 60,000 tonnes of rice per season with national demand currently standing at about 89,000 tonnes.