There is need for closer collaboration between coffee buyers and sellers to cut expenses involved before tea reaches the final consumer, the State Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources has said.
Officiating at the launch of tea agriculture season 2018 A in Karongi District, Western Province, last week, Fulgence Nsengiyumva said all efforts must be made to make farming more profitable for farmers.
During the launch, more than 4 000 seedlings were planted on three hectares of land in Twumba Sector.
Addressing the community, mainly tea growers at Gisovu Tea Estate, Nsengiyumva said the government remains committed to support agriculture sector and called on tea growing sector players to continue their partnership for improved tea value chain.
He said, "People have got to know the value of tea. The government will keep doing its best to improve this sector, and more advocacy will be communicated to all concerned stakeholders to improve tea value chain for farmers' improved economic welfare."
Tea plantation in Karongi covers 2781 hectares, and 2600 tonnes were produced this year on the same area, an estimated 6 tonnes per hectare.
Need for manure varieties
The government targets to increase tea productivity to 100 000 tonnes by 2020 from 66,000 tonnes currently, an average increase of tea harvest on the area from current 7.5 tonnes per hectare to 9 tonnes by 2020.
This year, Rwanda exported 25,628 tonnes of tea with a total income of USD63.4 million, according to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
However, farmers cited lack of adequate seeds, high cost of seeds and lack of alternatives to manure, among other challenges.
"These are issues that need to be addressed if we want to increase tea harvest," said Samson Munyurangabo, a tea farmer in Twumba Sector since 1978.
To address this issue, the government plans to build a special modern factory that produces different varieties of manure with construction works set for April 2018.
Minister Nsengiyumva said, "Once we get our own manure factory, we will surely get more variety, which could hopefully increase production of different crops."
Manure currently costs Rwf500 a kilo, but Francois Karamaga, the Chairperson of FERWACOTHE, a federation of tea cooperatives countrywide, has assured farmers that they will get it at Rwf365.
Amb. George William Kayonga, the NAEB Chief Executive Officer, urged tea factories to create their own tea seedling nurseries to satisfy the farmers' demands.
Setting the price
Farmers say the price of tea is still low, compared to efforts and expenses invested.
But Nsengiyumva said, "The rise or decrease in tea prices is and will keep being determined by quantity of tea exported as well as market size."
On transportation, Minister Nsengiyumva said that it would be sad to see people wasting a lot of tea produce on the way to factories.
Prices vary between Rwf194 and Rwf291 for a kilo of tea leaves, with Gisovu ranking as the top earner.
There are 42,840 tea growers countrywide, grouped in 19 cooperatives.
There are also 15 tea factories, with the Western Province covering over a half (8) of them, while two others are under construction for advanced tea processing services.