Despite high rice production, imports needed

Sunday January 14 2018

Farmers work in a rice paddy in rural Rwanda.

Farmers work in a rice paddy in rural Rwanda. The Agriculture Ministry plans to develop 7,000 hectares of marshland across the country and an additional 23,000 hectares on hills for rice cultivation. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Rwanda is seeing gains from its strategy of maximising marshlands for rice production but the supply is not enough to meet local demand, which means imports will still be needed.

Production of rice in paddy fields in season A of 2017 grew by 33.6 per cent compared with the same season in 2016, increasing from 49,430MT in 2016 to 66.448MT in 2017.

According to data from the National Institute of statistics, season B of 2017 saw rice production increase to 63,607MT from 61,114MT recorded in Season B of the previous year.

“Our goal was to expand the cultivable land and increase rice production. We still need to reconcile demand and supply, but so far there is progress,” said Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

For season B rice was grown on 21,763 hectares. Of this 1,375 hectares was grown on hillsides, 7,999 was cultivated in marshlands, while large-scale farmers planted on 12,389 hectares.

Additional hectares

The ministry plans to develop another 7,000 hectares of marshlands across the country and an additional 23,000 hectares of hillside for rice cultivation.

The National Rice Development Strategy identified an additional catchment area of 2,700km2 that gets annual rainfall of 1,500mm with 5,572 hectares of marshland in the Nyabarongo River being suitable for rice cultivation.

The country imported up to $37 million worth of rice in 2015 and $31.1 million in 2014, but if the production ratios keep going up, this trend will be reversed.

Last year, the price of rice rose by 12 per cent as a result of an increase in demand. The Ministry of Trade and Industry attributed the price increase on poor inventory management by traders at a time when demand soared.

The ministry added that the country still largely depends on rice imports and any disruption in imports affects the price.

Tax cuts

In the 2017/18 budget, Finance Minister Claver Gatete announced tax cuts on imported wheat, rice and sugar in a bid to mitigate the short supply.

“We are still a long way from satisfying our domestic rice demand but the imports have been declining as production grows,” said Karangwa Cassien, the acting director of the domestic trade unit at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“The improvement on production has not only been on quantities but on quality and price as well, Rwandan rice is quickly picking up in the market,” he added.

The emergence of rice processing companies like ICM Rwanda — the makers of Lucki rice, NAVR Ltd, Dukorerehamwe Company Ltd, COTICORIZ, Nyagatare Rice Co, Alfa Supply Food Company Ltd, among others has helped improve the quality of Rwandan rice.