Agriculture stakeholders have committed to work together in tackling post-harvest losses affecting vegetable and fruit production.
The stakeholders made the commitment during the 8th USAID/Rwanda Marketplace for Nutritious Foods Community of Practice Meeting in Kigali last week.
Epimaque Nsanzabaganwa, horticulture division manager at National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB), cited tomatoes, where between 30 and 40 per cent of produce is lost before it reaches the market. This loss is caused by factors such as poor harvesting and transportation means.
The Community of Practice is a network of local entrepreneurs, investors and institutions working in agriculture and nutrition.
The meeting took a critical look at the horticulture industry, with presentations and panel discussions on topics such as post-harvest handling of fruits and vegetables, quality standards and certification in production and processing, and opportunities for value addition and export of fruits and vegetables.
Nsanzabaganwa said investing in horticulture could help facilitate exports diversification to supplement Rwanda’s traditional exports.
“Horticulture presents huge potential as it has been realised that it can generate more revenues on small farmland than coffee and tea,” he said.
There is inadequate post-harvest handling infrastructure such as cold rooms and cold trucks for proper storage and handling of fruits and vegetables products, which calls for investments from the private sector or joint venture through public private partnership, he added.
Horticulture in Reality Cooperative (HoReCo) president, Emmanuel Ndayizigiye, said a cold truck costs about Rwf50 million, a cost too prohibitive for smallholder farmers.
Malachie Nzeyimana, a producer of green beans and onions, said cold rooms and trucks are among their urgent needs.
Alex Uwizeye, value chain agri-business specialist at USAID’s Private Sector Driven Agriculture Growth project, said the project will provide grant of up to $150,000 for each viable agriculture project. That grant covers 25 per cent of an entrepreneur’s investment.
Rwanda targets to increase horticulture exports more than tenfold, from $11 million in 2013 to $120 million by 2018.