With 70 per cent of the population practicing agriculture and the sector contributing about 28 per cent of the country's GDP, addressing challenges in the agriculture sector is critical.
While this may be true, some of these challenges also present themselves as opportunities for investment as the agricultural sector is still growing, sector officials say.
Rwanda Development Board understood the gap and brought up Agribusiness CEO Forum, a platform where different stakeholders meet to discuss about the opportunities and challenges within the sector.
Among the challenges raised by Agribusiness CEOs include certification of their products, untarmacked feeder roads and counterfeit of fertilizers or seeds common in the market.
Close to 130 private sector players in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors attended the CEO forum. Courtesy photos.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture Jean Claude Musabyimana, acknowledged that the ministry is aware of some of these challenges and called for increased collaboration in addressing the challenges.
"We are aware of the counterfeit problem and last week we apprehended some dealers. On the feeder roads case, the agro-businesses need to be in touch with their respective districts so that those feeder roads are prioritized in the upcoming budget," Musabyimana said.
About the certifications, Antoinette Mbabazi-Division Manager at RSB, noted that the East African "Organic" certificate is in the pipeline.
However, she argued, most of the firms that come asking to be certified don't have sustainability.
"I would also recommend that we have one strong and sustainable industry instead of having a hundred which won't last 5 years," she said.
At this forum, Rwanda Development Board also showcased the opportunities for investment in the sector.
Among the key opportunities highlighted were vertically integrated snow peas and chillies farm, passion fruit farm, end to end shiitake mushroom production, an aggregator and provider of inputs to high-value horticulture crops and a cold chain logistics provider.
There are also investment opportunities in irrigation where the government has developed a project dubbed "Gabiro project".
This will be a fully irrigated commercial 5,600 Ha farm that will be availed for farming by investors on lease.
Poultry is also among the opportunity areas with RDB projecting that the subsector's growth triple in coming years.
In aquaculture, the government is exploring different initiatives to increase the local supply of fish given Rwanda has abundant water bodies and evolving consumer habits. The target is to increase annual consumption to 112,000 metric tonnes.
Rwandan dairy products too have potential access to a large and fast-growing regional market, with proximity markets worth an estimated US$ 160 million.
Rwanda's milk producer price is also lower than all neighboring countries except Tanzania.
RDB said that they are working on a number of initiatives that will among other things spur the performance of the sector as well as its profitability for operators.
According to Louise Kanyonga, the Acting Deputy CEO at RDB, these efforts include the establishment of a crop insurance scheme among others.
"In April, the government launched the National Agriculture Insurance scheme to mitigate risks and losses that occur due to unpredictable natural disasters as well as pests and diseases that affect crops and livestock. 65 Ha in Gishari and 15 Ha in Nyacyonga have been mobilized to develop the floricultural sector," she said.
Additionally, Rwandair signed an agreement with the UK-based Magma Aviation to use its new B747 Wide-Body freighter service that will carry up to 25 metric tons of fresh agricultural products every Friday between Kigali and Liege Airport in Europe.
This sector has also seen increased efforts by the government to access finance.
For instance, at BRD through Export Growth Fund worth over Rwf 2 Billion and other partnerships such as Access to Finance with Unguka bank and Umutanguha Finance company, for the latter's capacity building to finance agriculture effectively.
This was the second time the sector players were meeting to network and brainstorm how to improve the sector. The quarterly CEO Forum series is organized by RDB.
This year's forum brought together close to 130 stakeholders in the Agricultural sector.