Rwanda: Why Potato, Bean Production Dropped

Cultivated area for both Irish potatoes and beans increased in the Season A of 2020, but their produce went down, according to a report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

The agriculture season A started from September 2019 to February 2020.

Speaking to The New Times, farmers said that heavy rain was the major and common factor for decreased farm output for the two staple food crops in the season under review.

These crops are prone to heavy rains. And, to control the adverse effects of such rains, effective pesticides or fungicides should be used; a practice which farmers said is largely limited by limited financial abilities.

According to the NISR agriculture survey for season A, in the season under review, Irish potato cultivated area was estimated at more than 51,500 ha, an increase of 4 per cent when compared to 2019 season A estimates.

Irish potato production was more than 427,400 tonnes, which is a decrease of 9 per cent compared to 2019 season A.

The average yield of Irish potato was over 8,200 kilogrammes or over 8 tonnes per hectare.

For beans, in 2020 Season A, they were cultivated on more than 362,100 ha, an increase of 21 percent compared to 2019 season A records.

Beans production was 226,570 tonnes, a decrease of 10 percent from 2019 season A estimates.

The average yield of beans was 626 kilogrammes - or less than a tonne per hectare.

Call for adequate fungicide, pesticide use

Vincent Havugimana, President of the Federation of Irish Potato farmers' cooperatives in Rwanda said that downpour involves higher investment in potato production because of the need for frequent use of fungicides to manage fungal diseases such as potato late blight.

"And, effective fungicides like ridomil that we use to protect potato crop from rain damage are expensive such that some farmers cannot afford them," he said, pointing out that a kilogramme of ridomil is Rwf20,000.

"As a result, some farmers apply fungicides once, or use cheap ones which do not have efficacy to manage such diseases," he said.

Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation told The New Times that the loss caused by heavy rain to beans was high especially in parts of Northern Province.

"I can say that heavy rain was responsible for about 40 percent of bean produce loss in parts of Northern Province," he said, indicating that lack of financial capacity and knowledge about the application of pesticides and fungicides to control diseases in bean crop is the main reason for their restricted use by farmers.

Meanwhile, production of some staple food crops went up in the same period. For instance, maize production was about 354,000 tonnes, an increase of 7 percent compared to the 2019 season A.

Its farmland was estimated at over 221,500 ha, which is 3 percent higher than that of 2019 season A.

Cassava production was over 578,500 tonnes, an increase of 11 percent when compared to 2019 season A. The average yield of cassava was more than 14,000 kilogrammes per hectare.

For cultivated area, cassava was grown on more than 190,400 ha, a decrease of 2 percent when compared to 2019 season A.

It is to note that in Season A of 2020, 35.2 percent of farmers used improved seeds, while 21.7 percent of farmers applied pesticides.

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