To improve rice yields, poorly equipped mills will be closed

Although the government has been making a lot of effort to improve rice yields, domestic production remains insufficient due to inadequate techniques including poor processing.

According to Agriculture Minister Agnes Kalibata, given the available marshlands more high-quality rice should be available. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

According to Agriculture Minister Agnes Kalibata, given the available marshlands more high-quality rice should be available. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

According to the officials, since rice has been identified as a priority crop by the government, the agriculture ministry invested lots of resources into the development of rice sub-sector in the country. The results of those efforts, however, are not as expected.

“We have been providing rice seeds, fertilizers and marshland, so why are still importing rice to satisfy the demand?” asked Agnes Kalibata, the Minister of Agriculture and animal Resources. “When we compare the quantity of rice produced and the potential yields considering the available marshlands, we see a big gap.”

She announced that at least 30,000 tons of processed rice is expected during the first season and 20,000 tons for the second, compared to an annual demand of around 57,000 tons. And buyers still complain about the high rice price.

According to Kalibata, the main problem lies in poor processing methods used by most farmers who often still hand-pound the rice (by battering it with wood or stones) which results in poor quality that cannot be sold on the market.

Given that there can be a significant improvement in both quality and quantity if farmers respect official regulations, the Minister said that the first measure would be to close those mills that do not meet the required standards while at the same time mobilizing farmers to take stakes in modern processing industries.

According to the national rice policy, Rwanda should attain self-sufficiency in rice production in 2020.

Rwanda Agricultural Board set up to improve services to farmers

In a bid to improve services to farmers in their daily activities, the ministry of agriculture and animal resources has officially launched the merger of some of its agencies to form Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB).

Martin Shem Ndabikunze, the new Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Martin Shem Ndabikunze, the new Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

RAB groups the Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), the Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority and the Rwanda Agriculture Research Institute (ISAR in its French acronym).

According to the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Agnes Kalibata, the combination of the agencies results from government resolutions to decentralize services to farmers with specific solutions to certain regions of the country, depending on their particularities.

“We should not treat the entire country in the same way when regions have their particularities,” Kalibata explained. “So RAB has been created to provide services based on regions and depending on what needs to be done there.”

The board’s services will be based in each of the four provinces in order to respond to the challenges of the regions accordingly.

“As we will be operating at zone level, we will reach out to people so as to conduct research responding to their needs,” said Shem Martin Ndabikunze, the RAB director general. “Increasing farmers’ income is our first priority since we are in this position for people’s welfare development.”

Ndabikunze remarked that the new board will bring about efficiency in the sector by improving integrated agricultural development which could not be easily reached in the past since those conducting research and those implementing the findings were operating separately.

“We are to promote technology in farmers’ capacity building to boost quality and quantity of their yields,” Ndabikunze said. “In the process, not only will farmers benefit from their increased production, but buyers will get products of good quality at low cost since offer and demand will be balanced.”