Kigali — Rwanda's young but growing horticulture sector is set to perform above the US$15 million target set by the National Agricultural Exports Board (NAEB) for the year 2012.
According to Jean Marie Vianney Munyaneza NAEB's horticulture international marketing officer, the sector has already raked in US$17 million worth of exports revenues in the first ten months of 2012, US$2 million better than the target.
"And we are hopeful that it can reach US$20million by the close of the year," observed Munyaneza.
Between January and June, the sector had earned exports receipts worth US$11 million with just US$4million shy of the target with six months to spare.
While the US$17 million target might seem a small figure compared to the over a billion dollar receipts Kenya earned in 2011 for example, the figure is a good sign for Rwanda where the government is just putting in place policies to encourage the practice to boost domestic exports.
In fact according to information available at NAEB, at least 70 percent of all revenues were earned from informal cross border trade within the region with only 30 percent accounting for formal trade.
Under Rwanda's strategic plan for Agricultural Transformation (PSTA) the plan is to boost horticulture which officials reckon has potential for vast export revenues.
The main challenge is there's limited production of all major horticulture products coupled with other challenges such as lack of local storage and processing infrastructure for the highly fragile items.
For instance between July and June 2012 Rwanda's main horticulture receipts were got from Vegetables (US$9million), Pyrethrum (US$3million) and fruits with receipts of only US$1.3million).
Flowers, that is a major revenue sources for Uganda still remains at its lowest in Rwanda with negligible returns so far.
Donatille Nibagwire, a Managing Director of Floris, a flower dealing company says she imports all her roses from Uganda and Kenya for local consumption in Rwanda.
"We don't export any roses but there's a big market if the area can be developed," she remarks.
Mangoes also remain very rare in Rwanda despite having a major consumer in Inyange industries which process fruits for juices and other products.
Currently, sources at Inyange say apart from Passion fruits and pineapples, they import mangoes, apples and oranges from other countries including South Africa and India.
According to Vianney Kabera, the Director of Freshpak International Ltd an exporting company for local horticulture Rwandan products confirms that indeed while there's a huge market abroad especially in Europe, there's limited production of most items and the challenge is further complicated by expensive flight costs.