RICE FARAMERS in Nyamasheke District, Western Province, have appealed to government to help them access reliable and accessible markets for their produce.
This comes as the harvesting season approaches, with the farmers expressing fears over the lack of markets for their yields, something they say was among the key challenges they have been facing over the years.
Sources said the most affected cooperatives are Coproda and Irebero, which grow rice in Mugonero marshland. AIS-Kibati, Dukore, Urakoga, Cokirima, Compaseka and Coremakanya are also facing market pitfall.
Some of the representatives of the cooperatives told The New Times on Tuesday that they still have tonnes of unsold produce in their stores.
They said the problem started last year when government introduced the new system of standardising agricultural products processing.
Laurent Ndahimana, the president of Irebero cooperative, said since the new system came into effect, farmers have been affected by the long distance they have to cover to reach nearest factories.
“Transport is a big hindrance. It takes more than six hours to get to Bugarama factory, which is the nearest client. The distance discourages buyers,” Ndahimana said.
The vice president of Coproda, Joseph Ntakiyimana, said they still have four tonnes of rice in their stores yet the harvest period is approaching.
“We are not sure whether we shall get clients for our produce,” he said.
Sodar, a rice processing factory based in the open plain of Bugarama, and some other ‘small’ factories based in Gafunzo, were the farmers’ main client but could not buy all their produce, Ntakiyimana said.
However, according to Ntakiyimana, since the past farming season the buyers refused their produce, citing high transport costs.
While the Ministry of Trade and Industry has set the price of raw rice at Rwf255 per kilogramme, the factories offered to give Rwf200 per kilogramme, according to the official, who added that they declined the deal.
“This is affecting our cooperatives and the income of our members,” decried Dative Nyiraromba, a member of Coproda. “Our produce gets damaged or is dumped.”
‘Talk to factories’
The head of post-harvest programme in the Ministry of Agriculture, Francois Nsengiyumva, said they have received the complaints and advised the cooperatives to engage factories and agree on the price.
Nsengiyumva, however, faulted some cooperatives which he said want to process their produce without caring for the set quality standards.
He promised to help connect the cooperatives to ‘good buyers.’
Coproda and Irebero cooperatives used to process their rice using sub-standard mills, which were last year suspended, according to officials from the Ministry of Agriculture.