Tea farmers in Nyamagabe district are feeling a fresh breeze of life with the impending completion of a factory in the area.
The farmers, mainly in the rural Buruhukirom Gatare, Nkomane and Musebeya sectors, told The New Times that lack of a factory in the area has affected production and revenue from tea growing.
Mushubi Tea Factory, which is being constructed by the Multi-sector Investment Group, a local investment company, is set to start production early in April, according to officials.
The plant will initially process about 20 tonnes of tea leaves per day, Vincent Ngarambe, the company's managing director, said. This will increase to more than 80 tonnes of tea per day when fully complete.
Tea growers in the area sell their produce to Gisovu or Kitabi factories, 20 and 40 kilometres away, respectively.
"It was hard for us to get our produce to the factories," Fortunée Nyirahabarora, a farmer, said. "From time to time, trucks transporting tea leaves got stuck in mud, often leading to loss of produce."
The farmer said their location from the factories also made it hard for them to maximise harvest.
"We used to harvest only in the morning so as to have time to deliver the yield in the afternoon. That affected us a lot. But now that the factory will be nearer, harvesting will be flexible," Nyirahabarora said. "We will extend the hours of work definitely," the optimistic Nyirahabarora added.
Price rise and job expectations
The farmers also expect the price of unprocessed tea to rise to Rwf110 per kilogramme up from the current Rwf70.
The impending factory construction has also raised hope of job creation among the locals, some of whom are looking forward to working in the plant.
"I see better living conditions for farmers in the near future," said Sylvestre Zikizaho, a farmer.
The $8m (Rwf5b) factory is set to start operations in October. It will employ about 300 workforce, while another 500 are assured of manual labour in its plantations, officials said.
While touring the plant last week, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi congratulated the investors for the project and promised continued support.
Dr. Habumuremyi called upon the investors and all concerned parties to ensure the factory is completed in time. He also asked tea growers to adopt modern farming practices to improve production.
The premier, who was accompanied by government officials, later toured the Rukarara 2 hydro-power project, under construction in Uwinkingi Sector.