16 February 2017

Rwanda: Parliament Summons Agric, Trade Ministers Over 'Poor' Dairy Sector

Parliament will summon heads of two ministries to explain poor practices leading to low milk production, and transportation and processing difficulties.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and that of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs (MINEACOM) will have to appear in Parliament to explain the dairy sector's poor performance.

The plenary was convened on Tuesday to hear and discuss a report from the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment. The report assessed the progress of the cattle stocking programme, Girinka, among others.

Speaker Donatille Mukabalisa said Parliament will summon heads of the two ministries.

Lawmakers visited the programme operations in every district of the country last year in October and early November. They identified inefficiencies in the milk supply chain, including low milk production, transport bottlenecks due to poor roads and challenges in milk trading and processing.

In September 2016, about 5,241 cows were given out.

However, several irregularities were reported, including bribery, and sale and giving of cows to ineligible people. Almost 50 per cent - 2,437 cows - were recovered, according to the Rwanda Agriculture Board.

An investigation is underway to reclaim the remaining animals.

Other challenges identified by the assessment committee include lack of forage and proper care for cows, lack of timely veterinary services for the animals, and lack of knowledge of bovine diseases.

As a result, milk production was low and some cows died.

Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, said that some farmers were reluctant to provide their milk produce to collection centres because they were not being paid enough for the milk.

Implementation of programmes

MP Marie Mediatrice Izabiriza said there is also an issue with districts in their performance contracts, Imihigo, in terms of how they implement social protection programmes, including Girinka, noting that the districts should be tasked to ensure effectiveness of Girinka and that this should be reflected in Imihigo evaluation.

The programme has a noble goal of moving people out of poverty and improving their livelihoods, but its implementation is questionable, MPs contended.

More than 253,000 cows were distributed to vulnerable families in 2016, 74 per cent of the target of 350,000 cows by 2017, according to the report.

"The Girinka Programme performed miracles for beneficiaries," said MP Nyirarukundo.

With improved incomes and production from the cows, people have access to milk to drink and manure to fertilise soil, and they also have more money to pay for school fees, health insurance, and other costs, she added.

Better management will increase the gains even further, she said.

Nyirarukundo said the committee toured 32 milk collection centres in the country. The centres were collecting only 36,710 litres of milk per day, just under 30 per cent of their full operating capacity of 128,500 litres per day, she said.

There are 101 milk collection centres around the country, and they have the capacity to process over 400,000 litres of milk per day.

MINAGRI funded the centres and gave them to farmers under cooperatives, which are under the management of MINEACOM.

The centres are expensive to build (about Rwf100 million each) and the government loses money if they are not operating at full capacity, MPs said.

In 2016, Rwanda produced over 1.5 million litres of milk per day, but only 18 per cent of it went through milk collection centres while only 10 per cent of the milk was processed, according to MINAGRI figures.

Of six dairies the MPs visited, only two were fully operational. The Mukamira Dairy, constructed at a cost of Rwf 5.6 billion in 2015, the Nyabiheke Dairy, constructed in 2013, are both not operating.

MP Juvenal Nkusi pointed out that it is unclear who will cover the cost of these unused machines.

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