The new National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) boss, Ambassador George William Kayonga, has promised to expand Rwanda's export base to boost volumes and foreign exchange receipts.
Kayonga, who was appointed last month by the Cabinet, assumed office on Monday. He takes over from Corneille Ntakirutimana, who has been the acting Director General for the past four months.
"I promise to deliver on the noble mandate of growing the agro-exports sector. I will assess every situation keenly and work with the team here to deliver our targets," said the former Rwandan high commissioner to Kenya while receiving the tools of office at NAEB headquarters.
Ambassador Kayonga is also a former East African Community Ministry Affairs permanent secretary.
While handing over office, Ntakirutimana said the board focused on boosting export revenues, mainly from coffee, tea, pyrethrum, processed milk, essential oils and honey.
He said challenges like low productivity and informal cross-border trade were being addressed. He noted that the board was working with TechnoServe, which is supplying fertilizers to coffee farmers in eight districts, to improve output. TechnoServe is an agro-business support NGO.
Ntakirutimana, who has also been working as the director for production at the board, revealed that work on five tea factories would start this year.
He added that NAEB was expanding the horticultural sector by establishing more flower parks to increase flowers and vegetable exports.
Kayonga will look to address these and other challenges the board is facing so that Rwanda can increase export volumes and revenues.
Rwandan exports are dominated by a few traditional cash crops such as tea, coffee and pyrethrum, as well as minerals. They represented 58.8 percent of total export value in the first half of this year.
According to the central bank's August monetary policy statement, this concentration of exports makes the Rwandan export sector vulnerable, since crops are subject to weather conditions and price fluctuations on the international market.
Despite a decline of 5.5 percent in tea value exports in the first half of this year, traditional exports coffee, tea and minerals' value went up by 51.4%, amounting to $166.8 million USD from $110.2 million in the same period in 2012.
Coffee exports increased in value and volume by 68.3% and 104.2%, respectively, despite a decrease of 17.6 % in coffee prices.
The new change in leadership is expected to boost the agriculture sector that is the backbone of the national economy. Currently 91% of the population is employed in agriculture based businesses in the country.