17 February 2013

Rwanda: Minagri Registers Reduction in Post-Harvest Losses

The ministry of agriculture and animal resources predicts high yields of rice, beans and maize during this season's harvest, which is under way.

Innocent Musabyimana, the deputy director general in charge of agricultural extension at the Rwanda Agriculture Board, recently announced an expected production of around 630,000 tons of maize and 560,000 tons of beans for this season only.

According to officials from the ministry of agriculture, the increase is the result of programs such as the use of fertilizers, improved varieties and land use consolidation among others. For instance, 213,000 ha of land were consolidated to grow maize during this season 350,000 ha for beans.

However, without drying and storage facilities or a guaranteed market, the country's abundant yields would deteriorate and be unable to command a good price, which would in turn affect the entire economy which still heavily relies on agriculture with its GDP contribution of 30%. Thus the huge investments by the government in the sector (13% of the national budget) would come to nought if there is no mechanism to contain the production losses. The produce worsens hugely when there is poor cleaning, drying and storing of the yields.

Sam Rubagumya, a maize farmer based in Nyagatare, recently told The Rwanda Focus that post-harvest losses can attain 40% without proper management. However, Minagri points out it has put in place mechanisms by establishing a post-harvest handling and storage task force with the mission to reduce losses, ensure proper storage, and improve market linkages for farmers.

Bulk storage facilities have been put in place around the country, including in the Free Trade Zone located in Gasabo.

Francois Nsengiyumva, the chairman of the task force, says they have been doing a good job since 2010, though he admits that there is still a need to expedite post-harvest management to minimize agricultural production losses. A survey conducted last year, according to Nsengiyumva, indicated a loss of 18.9% of maize production compare to 30% in 2009. The target is to reduce the loss of maize production to maximum 5%.

In the same period, rice post-harvest loss was reduced from 24.8% to 15.2% but efforts for beans were less successful with a stagnant 22%.

Apart from sensitization on good practices to dry and clean produce, the chairman of the taskforce noted, farmers with good production are also connected to better markets. He added that bulk storage facilities have been put in place around the country, including in the Free Trade Zone located in Gasabo.

In addition, Nsegiyumva pointed out that farmers through their cooperatives are encouraged to set up their own warehouses. A good example, he said, are 24 cooperatives who last year constructed their own stores in partnership with Banque Populaire.

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