The National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) has set a target of making the country self-reliant in apple production in the next five years.
According to Alex Kanyankole, the Director General of NAEB, this year they planted apples on 20 hectares in Miyove Sector of Gicumbi District.
"NAEB plans to grow apples on at least 100 hectares of land across the country before the end of this year but our long term objective is to satisfy the needs of the local consumption and make Rwanda an exporter of apples because apples are valuable fruits with high prices on the regional and international markets" Kanyankole said.
He said that apples would this year be grown on 80 hectares in Ngororero and Nyabihu districts, but noted that the process to identify more places suitable for apple farming would continue countrywide.
Kanyankole noted that NAEB is currently buying apple seedlings from Uganda adding that they would seek more suppliers from Kenya and South Africa. He noted that apples are usually imported into the country from South Africa saying that the objective of growing the fruits is to reverse the trend. According to the official, NAEB has so far injected Rwf 100 million in the initiative.
Kanyankole said apples have a huge unexploited market globally, announcing that his institution, in partnership with other stakeholders, would sensitise farmers and other concerned parties to engage in growing the fruit on a large scale.
The Permanent Secretary in the agriculture ministry, Ernest Ruzindaza, said apple farming would also play a key role in efforts to alleviate malnutrition in the country. He added that the initiative is important in boosting the country's economy and improving the social welfare of Rwandans in general.
Jean Louise Mugenzi, the chairman of Nyabugogo market fruits association, welcomed the move saying that it would enable apple traders to make more profits from their business since the current Rwf 300 retail price for an apple is unaffordable to many.