Rwanda: Declining Mango Production Worries Local Fruit Vendors

(file photo).
8 September 2019

Fruit sellers have complained about the lack of mangoes on the market due to declining production in the last few years.

Mangoes are one of the rare fruits, mostly due to local trees that have been affected by 'strange' diseases, with only a few professional farmers managing to control them.

Théoneste Twizeyimana, who sells fruits in Rwamagana market told Sunday Times that he doesn't sell mangoes anymore.

"I haven't sold mangoes in a long time although I do have other fruits. Our clients always inquire about mangoes, they love them a lot, but in this whole market, you cannot find any," he added.

Donatha Uwizeye, another trader, said: "Pests attacked mango trees sometime back and the trees turned black and were unable to produce. Unfortunately, we didn't have medicine for the pest."

"The small mangoes you see here are of a traditional variety, but they are few and of very poor quality," she explained.

"We need advocacy so the Government does something to increase the production of these fruits," she suggested.

Fruits at a horticulture market at Gatore, Kirehe District. Fruit dealers said they don't sell mangoes anymore due to declining production. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

Vestine Mukasakindi, a fruit vendor in Rwamagana market, said she stopped selling mangoes after prices of those from Tanzania hiked.

"A sack of mangoes from Tanzania is currently purchased at Rwf90,000. We used to purchase it for Rwf30,000, but that was in the past; no trader in Rwamagana can purchase those mangoes."

She further added that a bag of mangoes from Tanzania contains around 150 mangoes.

"Buyers in this market normally want to buy one mango for Rwf300, or a very big one for Rwf500, but now, if one wants that fruit, they will have to pay Rwf800 or 1,000 for one mango. A kilo of those mangoes is Rwf2,000. A kilo usually has 2 mangoes".

Marie-Claire Ntabana is a mango farmer in Nyagatare District in the Eastern province and has 1,415 active mango trees on 10 hectares, where she harvests around 150,200 tonnes per season.

During the high season, between late December and early April, Ntabana sells one kilo at Rwf500, while the rest of the year she gets Rwf1,000 for every kilo she sells.

She called on other farmers to join the mango business because she cannot satisfy the whole market.

Two of her three mango varieties are Tommy Atkins and Kent.

"The reason many people do not try to join the mango farming is that it takes a long time for a mango tree to start bearing fruits. Patience is very hard, but once they start producing, it lasts a lifetime.

"There is a huge demand for mangoes out there; they admire my produce because our mangoes are more delicious than those imported from East African countries. We do not know if it is because of the soil, but they are better than those from elsewhere.

"If I had more land I would plant more mango trees," she claimed.

Most of the mangoes sold in Rwamagana market are small and of poor quality. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

Ntabana, who always manages to control diseases in her plantations, said she earns more than Rwf 500,000 per week during the high season.

"I get around five tonnes per week during the high season. For example, Inyange Industries have a huge machine where they put fruits while processing juice. If they put in my produce alone, it would be too little for their machine, local farmers should really increase. But I have seen more people starting to be interested, once they join the business, we will satisfy the consumers and the processing plants".

Jean-Marie Vianney Munyaneza, Emerging Commodities Division Manager at National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), confirmed that the local production of mangoes was still low compared with the demand.

"The local mango production is dominated by small scale farmers and mostly with traditional mango-Dodo variety (small size and fibber). Currently, new high yielding varieties are being introduced to meet consumers' preferences and market requirements," he told Sunday Times.

These varieties include Tommy Atkins, Kent, Apple mango, Zillate. The Eastern Province and Bugarama region (Rusizi) are the main production zones of mangoes.

"Yes, there are the recent identified mango pests and diseases, however, it is not a big challenge as there are preventive and curative methods to control the pests and diseases," he said.

He cited that the most recent pest identified was 'mealybug': "That mostly appears during the dry season". He described such diseases as "easily" controllable.

Munyaneza further added that the country has the ability to produce mangoes on a large scale and even export them if farmers replace the traditional varieties with the improved varieties on the market.

"The awareness will continue to promote mango farming through different programs such as '3 fruit trees per household program', introducing mangoes on serviced land such as on edges of terraces, and consolidated."

Mangoes are the least exported fruits from Rwanda but NEAB is adamant that once the local market is satisfied, then the fruit will be exported too.

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