23 March 2014

Rwanda: Farmers Return Rejected Cows to Minagri

Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and the management of Development Bank of Rwanda are back on the drawing board to sort out the messy procurement of Friesian cows from Holland that farmers have rejected, claiming the animals were sick.

Famers Friday began ferrying the cows to various stations of the ministry in anticipation for compensation.

The decision to return the sickly cows was arrived at during a recent meeting the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Agnes Kalibata, held with the affected farmers on March 14.

"We will then meet with BRD and come up with a solution," the Minister had told The New Times.

She said the ministry had requested the affected farmers to return the cows as the government looks for ways to address the issue.

"We have given them a week to return the cows to the ministry," Dr Kalibata said.

At Gitikinyoni-Nyabugogo, The New Times saw trucks carrying the animals heading to Gishwati station in Nyabihu District. Some animals were taken to Kinigi in Northern Province while others were transported to the eastern and southern provinces.

One of the drivers said most of the cows were sick.

"We are transporting them from Rugende in Gasabo District to Gishwati but some of them are sick that's why we are driving slowly," he driver who preferred anonymity said

The farmers last month petitioned the government over what they termed as a "sham deal" in which the ministry of agriculture and Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) supplied them exotic cows that we found to be sick.

The animals were imported from a farm in Holland owned by N.H Schaap.

The animals have left 28 farmers counting losses despite their high expectations to make profits. Under the deal, 500 cows were purchased at $1.9 million (about Rwf1.4 billion).

At least 100 of the cows are said to have died, according to the farmers.

Augustine Muvunyi, speaking on behalf of the aggrieved farmers, said that investigations had revealed that most of the cows had various diseases.

"That's not the quality of cows we had agreed with the ministry and BRD. We, the farmers, were not part of the selection team that went to Holland," he said

The farmer, who returned 19 cows, said he spent Rwf 19 million for the cows. He is now seeking compensation.

He mentioned that one foreign veterinary doctor had told him the animals were suffering from dermatitis disease that has killed animals in Holland, Italy, Canada and several European countries.

Some of the characteristics of the disease include bleeding, foot and mouth diseases, excessive scratching, and visible scaling of the skin.

"If the farmers were involved in selecting the cows, we wouldn't have imported such poor quality cows that have less milk production," he said.

According to Muvunyi, only four farmers have not retuned their cows adding those who have returned them are still waiting for the decision from the ministry and the Bank.

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