Cassava farmers have raised concerns over low prices for their produce, something they said could discourage them from growing it.
Under the Crop Intensification Program that started in September 2007 with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity and ensuring food security, cassava is one of six priority crops which also includes; maize, wheat, rice, Irish potatoes, and beans
However, farmers from Ruhango district who spoke to Sunday Times said that they sell their products at giveaway prices.
Léonard Ndagijimana, a farmer who grows cassava on four hectares says they sell their produce at Rwf70 per kilogram and only Kinazi Cassava plant pays Rwf75 per kilogram which is too little compared to the money invested in cassava farming.
He further added that they needed at least Rwf115 per kilogram.
A mini-survey by Sunday Times found that in Kigali city, cassava prices vary between Rwf200 and Rwf300.
The lowest price for cassava flour is Rwf300 per kilogram.
Ndagijimana harvests between 15 and 18 tonnes per hectare and says that it takes a year and a half to harvest cassava.
"I invest over Rwf800,000 per hectare. The prices for our harvest is too little compared to the efforts we invest in farming," he said.
This means that he invested over Rwf3.2 million on four hectares and harvested over 60 tonnes.
He said he supplies the produce to Kinazi Cassava plant at Rwf75 per kilogram but the harvest which the factory doesn't buy is sold at the lowest price.
Farmers say the plant has no capacity to buy the whole produce.
The factory has committed to increasing the quantity of produce bought from local farmers from 5,500 tonnes to 28,000 tonnes this year after securing U.S Food and Drug Administration Certificate, which gives them a green light to supply flour in the U.S market
"As farmers, we are also mulling setting up our own cassava processing factory in two years. By adding value to the crop, we hope we can get more profits," he said.
The processors are also being trained to add value to cassava and diversify its production including quality cassava flour for bakeries.
Cassien Karangwa, the Director of Domestic Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), said that prices vary depending on supply and demand but efforts were underway to link the farmers to a wider market.
"This fiscal year, we are linking them to different buyers," he said adding that there were other small cassava processing units but they are not enough.
"We were expecting another big cassava processing factory in Ngororero District that will receive more cassava harvest but the project stalled as the contractor failed to deliver," he said.
He said that there is a target to exports cassava produce to DR Congo
However, he said farmers must prepare quality cassava needed by clients from that country.
"Consumers in DR Congo do not like cassava tubers that are first soaked into the water as farmers in the southern area of Rwanda do before processing them. Another strategy to help these farmers get market is that, in this fiscal year, we will teach them how cassava needed by consumers is treated.
Then they will replicate the practices so that their produce gets market in DR Congo which has a high demand for cassava. With such a good strategy, prices will be satisfactory for them," he said.
He also urged farmers to increase production per hectare.
"If they invest but don't get enough produce per hectare due to poor agricultural practices, they will still count losses even if the prices increase," he said.
Over 700,000 families grow cassava in 3,980 villages of Eastern, Western and Southern provinces which can produce 1.7 million tones.