Rwanda's agricultural exports generated over $515.9 million (over Rwf447 billion) in a period of one year from July 2017 to June 2018, representing an increase of 44.73 per cent compared to $356.5 million (over Rwf316.8 billion) generated in the same period in 2016-2017.
According to statistics by the National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB), non- traditional exports generated over $354.7 million (about Rwf307.5 billion) from July 2017 to June 2018, representing 59.97 per cent increase compared to $221.7 million (Rwf192.2 billion) that was generated from July 2016 to June 2017.
Non-traditional export commodities refer to commodities that were previously produced solely for domestic consumption and have recently debuted the export market.
These include fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers, legumes and cereals, meat, eggs and dairy products as well as live animals.
Total traditional exports - commodities that Rwanda is known to have been exporting over years - which are tea, coffee and pyrethrum provided $161.2 million in the 2017-2018 period compared to $134.7 million in the 2016-2017 period, an increase of 20 percent.
Garden Fresh's Chief Commercial Officer, Marie Chantal Isugi, told The New Times that the efforts in export evolution is picking up pace.
For instance, the firm said that they have moved from exporting six tonnes of commodities per month in 2016 to up to 18 tonnes a week currently.
The firm said that to make the improvement, they have been involved in training farmers in horticulture farming and are working with about 500 smallholder farmers in the last farming season.
"Having farmers increasingly embrace horticulture crops is among the indicators that smallholder farmers understand the importance of growing vegetables as cash crops. They go beyond subsistence only," she said.
She said, previously, people had commonly held belief that only coffee and tea qualify as cash crops and viable for export.
"Now, horticulture crops such as vegetables can be compared to coffee or tea in earning foreign revenues," she said.
NAEB Communications Officer, Pie Ntwari, said that among the strategies to keep the momentum and further increase agricultural export revenues include expansion of production land and productivity per hectare; using quality inputs and value addition.
"NAEB will also continue to engage more investors in the sector, help farmers to be focus more in business oriented agriculture rather than traditional farming," Ntwari said.
"We are going to add efforts in diversified products such as macadamia and avocados. This is in terms of expansion of production," he said.
Vegetable oils amounting to 38.7 million kilogrammes in volume were exported generating over $38.3 million from 16.8 million kilogrammes exported in the 2016-2017 period.
Dairy exports also increased significantly as 17.5 million kilogrammes were exported generating some $20.6 million from 12 million kilogrammes that were exported and generated $13 million in 2016-2017.
The statistics show that production of tea from July 2017 to June 2018 period was over 30.5 million kilogrammes of which more than 27.8 million kilogrammes were exported, generating over $88 million in revenue.