Pyrethrum farmers have been urged to increase production if they are to benefit from the increasing demand for the crop.
Epimaque Nsanzabaganwa, the head of the horticulture division at the National Agricultural Export Development Board, noted that though there was a big market for the crop locally and globally, Rwanda was not benefitting because of low production.
He added that many farmers were not aware of the huge economic benefits pyrethrum growing presents.
Nsanzabaganwa, however, said the country's output had been increasing over the years.
It rose from 2,783kg in 2008 to 26,192kg worth about $8m in revenue in 2012. Pyrethrum is Rwanda's third major export crop, after tea and coffee.
"At first farmers were using splits instead of seeds to produce the organic pesticide, but now we have been working with Horizon Sopyrwa, a pyrethrum processing company, to encourage farmers to use seeds which yield more pyrethrum extract. We also want the farmers educated on how to intercrop pyrethrum with other crops like potatoes and, hence, high yields," Nsanzabaganwa said.
Researchers say that when a farmer plants splits, his crop produces less pyrethrum extract from flowers. They argue that since seeds bring forth new plants, they yield more.
For instance, if your target is to produce 1kg of pyrethrum extract from 55kg of flowers, the yield will be less than 1kg from the same amount of flowers when one plants splits.
Pyrethrum is currently grown in Musanze, Nyabihu, Rubavu and Burera districts and covers about 3,200 hectares of land. Over 20 co-operatives grow the crop, though mostly on a small scale.
"The government is going to add 1,900 hectares in Gishwati and set up more co-operatives to grow the crop to boost increase production.
This will help us meet the ready export and local markets," said Gabriel Bizimungu, the Horizon Sopyrwa general manager.
Agropharm Africa, a UK firm that processes farm produce, partnered with Horizon Sopyrwa a year ago to process pyrethrum, Therese Karitanyi, the firm's Kigali-based general manager, said that the firm was working with local leaders to educate the people on the economic benefits of cultivating the crop. She added that pyrethrum growing does not require a lot of inputs compared to other cash crops.
Rwanda, Kenya, Australia and Tanzania are the world's major pyrethrum suppliers.