To resume normalcy of horticulture export, the volumes of weekly exports will have to rise from a current export capacity of 30-35 Metric tonnes to between 80-100 Metric tonnes as was the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following weeks of slowed business activity resulting from the measures to curb the spread of the virus, stakeholders in horticulture exports say that recapturing markets, maintaining volumes and client relations are among the priorities.
According to the Economic Recovery Plan Blueprint, since the COVID 19 outbreak, weekly volume of exports had dropped to 30-34 MT but was optimistic that it would pick up in coming days.
Among the ongoing interventions is working with the national carrier, RwandAir to deliver goods to some markets in Europe which has allowed producers maintain delivery of fresh produce to a number of markets in Europe.
The economic recovery blueprint noted plans include securing more flights weekly to Europe at subsidized airfreight rates to allow exporters maintain volumes.
"Government's support will be needed to secure more weekly flights to Europe at a subsidized airfreight rate. Currently, prices at destination markets are falling, but airfreight prices are increasing due to the COVID-19 lockdown. However, consistent ability of exporters to commit volumes to export weekly is the factor in attracting affordable cargo rates," the blueprint reads in part.
Currently the cost of airfreight has been said to be high by exporters standing at $1.8 per kilogramme compared to $1.4 before the pandemic.
Andre Ndikumana, the acting Chief Executive of NAEB, said that there are engagements with the airline to access ways to reduce the costs to improve the competitiveness of the exports and improve returns of producers.
Ndikumana said that currently, they operate three weekly flights to Europe, two RwandAir and one by Ethiopian Airlines.
The Ethiopian Airline is more expensive of the two priced at $2.15 per Kilogramme with NAEB subsidizing by $0.45 to reduce the cost.
Beyond working with RwandAir to reduce cost of airfreight, NAEB is also engaging them to open up more destinations which have demand for fresh produce such as Dubai, China and South Africa.
Ndikumana said that to support producers and exporters maintain operations, they have availed free access to cold rooms and cargo vehicles to reduce post-harvest losses and improve management of the cargo handling process.
NAEB also works with exporters to consolidate demand in markets served to ensure that there are volumes available to respond to demand. This has ensured that producers and exports are in position to respond to demands collectivity as opposed to individual efforts which can be challenging for operations.
The acting Chief Executive said that other interventions including input support such as subsidization for products such as fertilizers to ensure that farmers can be able to maintain productivity to respond to demand in global markets. The support also includes training on best farming practices to improved productivity and compliance to global market standards.
The agency will also rollout marketing and promoting local produce globally for market linkage as well as work with producers to facilitate compliance and certification. The intervention is also in the form of facilitation of Business to Business linkages to for exporters to interact with buyers in global markets improving chances of further cooperation and opening new markets.
The intervention is not only focused on global markets but also facilitating access to the local market through the Kigali Wholesale Market which NAEB will further drive the recovery and performance of the agriculture sector.
The project involves setting up a fresh produce market tailored to have critical elements such as cold rooms, value addition among others to reduce post-harvest losses from an estimated 40 per cent of all produce.
With Season C of farming expected to commence in coming days, NAEB said that they are optimistic that volumes of vegetable exports available for global and local markets. Season C mostly targets crops with short term crops such vegetables which are in high demand globally.