Rwanda: Is Chilli Set to Become Rwanda's Top Export?

Dieudonne Twahirwa, 30, who runs Gashora Farm, examines chili plants at his farm in Bugesera District in eastern Rwanda on August 23, 2018.
20 September 2019

Rwandan young agribusiness entrepreneur, Dieudonné Twahirwa, last week landed a deal to supply 50,000 tonnes of dry chilli worth $100 million (about Rwf90 billion) every year to China, a move expected to significantly boost Rwanda's agricultural exports.

The five-year agreement was signed on September 13, 2019, at the Rwandan Embassy in Beijing between Twahirwa and the Chinese GK International Enterprises, a trading company dealing with import and export of different items, including food items, solar coating, among others.

The development means that chilli worth $500 million will be exported to China in the next five years.

Also known as Diego, Twahirwa is the Managing Director of Gashora Farm, which specialises in chilli exports.

The chilli deal is set to fetch more revenue than tea, or coffee, the two major export crops for Rwanda.

Figures from the 2018/2019 annual report by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) show that tea export revenue decreased by 5 per cent from $88 million in 2017/2018 to $83 million (about Rwf74 billion based on current exchange rates) in 2018/2019.

However, its exports volumes increased by 10 per cent from 27,000 tonnes to 30,000.

The same report indicated that coffee revenue decreased from $69 million in 2017/2018 to $68 million (about Rwf61 billion based on current exchange rates) in 2018/2019, whereas the export quantities increased by 6 per cent from 20,000 tonnes to 21,000 tonnes in 2018/2019

Speaking to The New Times, Twahirwa said that effective partnership between farmers and the government will ensure that the deal benefits all parties involved.

"The deal is going to benefit our country in general as we will be able to increase our production and export capacity and be able to generate more employment and ensure that chilli farmers have a sustainable market for the next five years," Twahirwa said.

He disclosed that the first export will happen as soon as they get approval.

"We are in the process of getting the approval, it may not take more than a month from now," he said.

So far, he said, his company works with more than 1000 farmers.

"This [deal] will mean an increasing number of contractual farmers and also getting support from the government so as to be able to do it efficiently," he observed.

"Currently, we have a 40Ha model farm but we are planning to increase the size," he added.

Last year, Twahirwa secured a deal to export 1,500 drums (barrels), containing 37,500 litres of chilli oil for $2 million (about Rwf1.7 billion).

The agreement was reached between Kai Jiang Xian zi Wei Food on the sidelines of China International Import Expo 2018 (CIIE2018) in Shanghai.

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