Maize prices trigger increased production

The maize price in the country and on the world market has sparked an increase in production in Rwanda.

The maize price in the country and on the world market has sparked an increase in production in Rwanda.

Patrice Hakizimana, director for Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) said the lowest price of maize in Rwanda last year was Frw117 per kilogramme compared to Frw115 per kilogramme at the regional level.

It is expected that production will increase to 271,488 metric tonnes this year compared to 102,447 metric tonnes over the last two seasons. This will be a huge 169,041 tonnes above last year’s production.

Rwanda currently imports some maize from Uganda and Tanzania to boost local production for feeding her population.

He said that the introduction of fertilizers and improved seeds for farmers in Rwanda is one of the likely factors for the increase in the production of maize in the country.

"Farmers are availed with fertilizers at subsidized costs in order to improve their soil fertility. It is also true that increase in production could reduce maize imports which are coupled with high prices," Hakizimana said.

The increase in production will also enable Rwanda to export its surplus to Burundi and Congo, hence fetching revenue that can be used to finance even better maize production.

Additional quantity of maize production is also expected to address the problem of food insecurity in the country.

According to the 2006 comprehensive food security vulnerability assessment, 28 per cent of households across the country were food insecure.

This meant poor consumption and weak food access in the country. Bugesera and the western lake shores region alone had about 40 percent.

Only 22 percent of surveyed households were considered to have food security, with all other households presenting some form of vulnerability either in terms of consumption or access to food.

RADA suggests that since farmers are now increasingly investing in fertilizers, their production costs have increased. Therefore, it’s proposed that the market forces should be allowed to prevail unless prices drop below Frw80.

It is therefore commendable that RADA’s programme is making the lives of Rwandan citizens better and more secure. The programme is undertaking massive investments in order to reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to climatic risks and improve agricultural yields.

But the expected increase will meet only 66 percent of the national requirements according to the statistics from RADA. It is therefore not guaranteed that there will not be any importation of maize, but there will be just a reduction in the volume of importation.

The agency has set up strategies for dealing with the expected bump crop of maize. Since the productions have been less and not enough for household needs, maize infrastructure like stores at the district level have not been existent.

Hakizimana further urged that an increase in production will require stores or ready markets to ensure that farmers are able to meet their cash needs and keep more daily consumption.

Therefore, RADA’s institutional arrangements and associated budgets indicate the need to invest in the post harvest facilities like storage facilities and how to market their produce.

It is also advocating for a credit line in the Rwanda Development Bank through the government to enable the private sector or farmers’ associations access finances for investment in their agriculture endeavors.

Rwandan farmers use four ilogrammes of fertilizers per hectare of land, according to the Household Living Conditions survey carried out in 2007.

This quantity was considered 10 times less than the minimum required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and that this was 100 times less than the levels reached in some industrialized countries.

According to Hakizimana, the formation and strengthening of cooperatives will ease the achievement of the expected targets.

He argued that appropriate management of this component is critical to the success of the whole programme and must be given maximum attention.

Hakizimana added that an increase in maize production will bring about an agricultural production boost, which might enable other sectors to grow.

It is evident that agriculture can spur economic development of a country, with the example of the newly industrialized countries like Taiwan, and high tech knowledge based economies like India.

In the past, Rwanda’s level of food production was significantly higher than the average in the sub-Saharan Africa region from 1970s until the mid 1980s. However, since then, Rwanda’s agricultural output per capita has been volatile.

Well knowing that these facts do not constitute proof causality, there is little doubt that the failure of sub-Saharan Africa to involve the majority of their population in the national development process has inhibited economic and human development.

Therefore, if Rwanda is to achieve its stated development ambition of becoming a middle income country by 2020, then it should start targeting the 80 percent of people working in the agricultural sector as their main income generator.

As per the 2007 national human development report about household living conditions survey done in 2006, 71 per cent of Rwandans were classified as subsistence farmers.

This means that more than a quarter of households cultivate less than 0.2ha of land. This means that at the current and projected levels of food production, they are not capable of producing sufficient food to feed everyone.

Addressing chronic hunger and the vulnerabilities of this population therefore becomes an urgent public concern.