The cost of fish feed has reduced from about Rwf1,500 to about Rwf800, thanks to a new fish feed factory that has started operations in the country.
The factory, located at Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ), has capacity to produce about 700 kilogrammes of feed per hour, and is expected to boost fish farming in the country.
The plant will save farmers from the difficulties they have been facing in importing fish feeds.
Local fish farmers have been importing feeds from Israel, Germany, Mauritius, and Uganda, and they say this was costly because of freight charges.
It also affected the freshness of the feed and fish productivity.
So far, the factory has installed a facility worth $400,000 (about Rwf330 million).
Bart Gasana, the managing director of Aquahort Exports Ltd, the firm that owns the factory, told The New Times last week that the plant will expand its activities depending on feed demand from farmers.
Gasana said the factory will guarantee farmers fresh, nutritious and affordable feed.
The ingredients making up the feed come from commodities such as soya, maize, and other fish products.
Francis Kavutse, a fish farmer at Muhazi Lake with various ponds in Kayonza District, said: "In about three months since I started using this locally produced feed, I have realised that it is nutritious and it has smell that fish recognises fast. Fish responds by consuming it easily because it does not sink in water."
Kavutse owns 30 cages and he needs between two to five tonnes of feed per month.
"With this feed, each fish in my ponds is growing at a rate of about 40 per cent compared to the imported feed which could only stand between 18 to 20 per cent of growth rate," he said.
Kavutse said the feed they used to import weighed less compared to the actual weight indicated on the sack.
A sack indicating 40 kilogrammes actually weighed about 25 kilogrammes or 28 kilogrammes, he said. This newspaper could not independently verify the claim.
Gasana noted that they want to further reduce the price of the feed to Rwf400 to make it more affordable to farmers.
"There should be measures to reduce the cost of raw materials needed for the production of the feed and electricity, such that we reduce the price of fish feed to Rwf400. By so doing, we will increase fish farming productivity at a very good rate," he said.
The Programme Coordinator of Aquaculture and Fisheries at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Wilson Rutaganira, said the factory would help farmers get affordable feed, and promote commercial fish farming mainly through cages.
He said that fish feed is a major component in aquaculture (commercial fish farming in cages and ponds) as it accounts for more than 65 per cent of the sector production cost.
"Having such a factory in the country is very important because the cost of feed is going to reduce, more production is going to be supported, as well as more increase in investment," he said.
There are only 1,600 tonnes of fish produce from aquaculture per year, but Rutaganira noted that thanks to this factory, the produce could increase to between 5,000 tonnes and 10,000 tonnes per year if farmers embrace the use of the feed.
The factory comes after the Government privatised Urban Fisheries Products Promotion Centre, a facility that was responsible for collecting fish and selling it in the City of Kigali, to Acquahort Exports Ltd, for a 10-year lease.
The privatisation was intended to address the issue of low fish produce in the country.
To further facilitate farmers' access, Gasana said the factory will offer the feed to farmers on credit provided that they supply fish to the company.
The cost of feed will be deducted from the payment that a farmer will receive for their produce.
When fish produce gains momentum, the company will engage in fish collection, treatment, distribution, processing, packaging and export, he said.
Rwanda's total fish production from both aquaculture and capture fisheries amounts to 26,500 tonnes per year. This production is by far low compared to the target of 112,000 tonnes by 2018.
Rwanda imports about 15,000 tonnes of fish per year, according to figures from RAB.