22 March 2019

Rwanda: Parliament to Launch Inquiry Into Issues Dogging Agric Sector

The Lower House on Wednesday resolved to set up an ad hoc commission to examine issues in the agriculture sector.

The resolution was made after the MPs were not satisfied with a presentation by the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Geraldine Mukeshimana, during a plenary session.

Persistent post-harvest losses, importation of hybrid seeds (soybean, maize, and wheat), challenges facing milk collection centres and high taxes for marshland users were among the major issues that the minister failed to give convincing explanations for.

During her presentation, the mister said that Rwanda intends to stop the importation of hybrid seeds by 2021.

"We are preparing to multiply 1,192 tonnes of maize hybrid seeds, 500 tonnes of soybeans and 566 tonnes of wheat. All that will offset the quantity that we import" she said

She said that the tax imposed on marshland users depends on the location, productivity and the cost of land in ach district, dispelling the concern that the taxes paid by farmers were high.

"We are looking forward to working with our stakeholders to set guidelines on taxes that rice farmers pay. Mainly based on farmers' expenses in preparing marshlands, their harvest, and prices on the market," she explained.

In order to reduce post-harvest losses, she said, the Government was investing in modern infrastructure such as drying facilities, improving feeder roads to facilitate storage and transportation of harvest.

Out of the 110 milk collection centres across the country, she said, 84 centres now have electricity.

"We are building five milk collection centres and repairing 60 others. We doubled efforts to avoid losses for cattle farmers," she stated.

However, MPs were not satisfied by the explanations and resolved to establish a commission of inquiry to assess issues observed through various work trips, which the minister had said were over.

"Those answers are not based on issues we observed in our trips, they are based on plans of the ministry but when we visited the public we saw the contrary. I am wondering if our observations are wrong. And also it is not our first time to hear those answers," MP Eugene Barikana wondered.

He added: "Farmers are incurring losses, I think the issue is not setting prices but analysing them and factoring in every expense in pricing. We wish to have another probe to carefully assess all issues that the minister said are no longer there so that we can know the truth and take appropriate measures."

MP Euthalie Nyirabega said that there must be clear explanations on failed projects.

"Some of the questions were not answered at all. The minister said that Government is multiplying hybrid seeds yet when we ask farmers, they say they never received the seeds yet. Government invested a lot of money," she asked.

Only 26 legislators of 66 said they were satisfied by the minister's explanations.

The findings from the assessment will be reported to a plenary session.

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