Cassava farmers are struggling to find market for excess produce which has forced them to sell below input cost.
While cassava production has increased in Southern Province this season, long after recovering from cassava mosaic disease, which destroyed the crops between 2013 and 2016.
Farmers say the increased supplies have seen cassava milling factory located in Kinazi, Ruhango District buy the produce at as low as Rwf75 ($0.087) a kilogramme. The price is below the input cost estimated at Rwf85 ($0.098).
Martin Harerimana, head of Rwanda Cassava Co-operative Federation observed that farmers still can’t sell big chunk of their produce sold.
“We have accepted Rwf75 after our negotiations for a margin price of Rwf100 didn’t work, but still there is not many to sell to. We are doing the advocacy to at least convince the factory to pay advances to farmers pending its planned quick expansion to boost operating capacity,” said Mr Harerimana.
Mr Harerimana expressed concerns that the market will worsen further in the coming months in view of majority of small-scale farmers seeking to sell off produce to pay off pending farm costs, cover other needs and prepare farms for other seasons.
Beside cassava, the country has reported an increase in production of other some key staple crops.
Save for for maize whose produce dropped by 3 per cent due to the fall armyworm infestation, according to government’s latest figures, other crops prioritised under the crop intensification programme like Irish potatoes, cassava, wheat, rice, beans among others recorded an increase in produce between 2015 and 2017.
Irish potatoes for instance, recorded 17 per cent increase after production, which stood at six tonnes per hectare increased to 8.7 tonnes and even higher in some districts.
Cassava yield per hectare jumped from 1.5 tonnes to 2.6 tonnes per hectare, translating into a 13 per cent production increase.
However, farmers said low sales attributed to the long-standing market challenges, limited capacity to store saw this boost translate into little to no profits for most of them.
Losses have been recorded in the milk subsector where produce also increased from 700,267 tonnes to 816,791 tonnes in a span of two years.
Official figures show the existing processing plants have the capacity to absorb only 30 per cent of total daily milk production.
Rwanda Today’s field assessment showed that Irish potato farm gate prices throughout the just concluded season barely went above the input costs estimated at Rwf108 a kilo until Ministry of Trade and that of Agriculture increased the price to between Rwf135 and Rwf138.
Input cost for maize is estimated at Rwf193 on average, but farmers complained that retailers at Murindi and Nyabugogo crop market were offering between Rwf140 and Rwf170.
According to Evariste Tugirinshuti who heads maize farmers’ co-operative federation, only maize bought by the government to restock its strategic reserve alongside sells to a number of processors went for between Rwf170 and Rwf210 a kilogramme.
“It is an issue that we are discussing in a platform that brings us together with Ministry of Agriculture and that of Trade and traders. We are pushing to see if all the buyers can be given a price relatively above the input costs,” he said.
Market forces are partly blamed because exports to neighbouring countries like Congo and Burundi, which received much of the surplus are hit by instability.