Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi on Thursday told the bicameral parliament that government plans to scale up agricultural produce through irrigation and mechanisation to enhance food security and help fast-track economic development.
During a presentation on the agricultural sector performance, the premier noted that in 2012-2013 the government will construct five irrigation dams and develop 1,391 hectares of hillside irrigation in Kirehe and Nyanza districts.
In addition to the development of pumping systems and hillside irrigation on 700 hectares in Nyagatare and Kirehe districts, new four dams for marshland irrigation will also be constructed as well as development of marshland irrigation on 3,648 hectares in various districts in the Eastern Province, including Kayonza, Gatsibo and Nyagatare.
The premier noted that much had already been achieved and estimated the national irrigation potential at 589,711 hectares.
"Big projects that were completed include irrigation of Muvumba marshland for rice farming, at 1,750 hectares, irrigation of Kagitumba and Nasho valleys, at 1,000 hectares, and irrigation of Rurambi marshland at 1,000 hectares."
On mechanisation, Habumuremyi said that land ploughed using machines increased from 6,300 hectares in season A of 2011 to 11,350 hectares in season B of 2012. The target for season A of 2013 is 12,400 hectares.
Government plans to launch and operate village mechanisation centres in 10 districts, namely Nyamata, Karongi, Rulindo, Rwamagana and Gatsibo. Others are Nyanza, Nyagatare, Musanze, Ngoma and Gasabo.
Construction of a building to host a power tillers assembly line in the Special Economic Zone is also under consideration.
The prime minister said the country's current farm fleet machinery includes 226 tractors, 266 power tillers, 35 rice transplanters and 1,200 attachment tools.
Outlining some of the current challenges as low capacity in irrigation, mechanisation and inadequate storage facilities, the premier told MPs the government projects to attain self-sufficiency in rice production by 2016.
Lawmakers generally approved the plans but raised concerns about poor agriculture sector statistics, streamlining of the land consolidation programme, intra-country trade and food distribution, as well as weak local research institutions.
MP Basile Bayihiki said that rice farmers do not get a fair deal as they sell their produce to local industries at a low price but once this is processed, they can barely afford it.
"An example is a farmer selling rice at Rwf250 per kilogramme but later buy it at Rwf700.You wonder how does the farmer gain," Bayihiki posed.
Deputy Charles Kamanda called on the government to facilitate the establishment of plants to manufacture packaging products.
Senator Marie Claire Mukasine also told the House that even though land consolidation is making some progress, it has not been systematic.
Senator Mukasine also questioned what she referred to as slow progress in the coffee sub-sector, asking the premier to inform the House whether there was a particular problem that requires special attention.
Deputy Gonzague Rwigema noted that coffee "is difficult to grow if you consider the farmers' input yet farmers are not happy about market prices".
"On the other side, people with washing machines are crying. They say the market price is terrible. What is the government doing about that?" Rwigema posed. "What plans are there to ensure that farmers access and service their loans? And what plans are in place to ensure progress in coffee production?"
Today, premier Habumuremyi returned to parliament to respond to the questions from the floor.