Rwanda: Maize Farmers Count Losses As New Prices Remain Unenforced
A section of maize farmers has expressed concern over the delay in implementing a new pricing regime recommended by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Minicom), which has left them counting losses.
Farmers who spoke to The New Times saying that they are incurring a loss of at least Rwf30 on every kilogram sold.
In a statement it issued on February 4, the trade ministry said that a kilogram of quality maize (grains) should be sold at Rwf226 during agriculture season A of 2021. The price represents a slight increase compared to last season, which was Rwf223 a kilogram.
Cassien Karangwa, Director of Domestic Trade at Minicom said that the price was set after considering the investment made by farmers, and represented a profit margin of 20 percent.
The price was set after a meeting of maize stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, representatives of maize farmers processing factories, and those of major maize buying firms, as well as districts that are big producers of the crop.
Speaking to The New Times, Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of the National Federation of Maize Farmers’ Cooperatives said some districts are about to conclude harvesting, while others are just starting to harvest their maize. Countrywide, harvesting is expected to be concluded by end this March.
Tugirinshuti said that generally, farmers are getting Rwf160 on a kilogramme, yet they invest Rwf198 to produce a kilogram. The investment includes expenditure on seeds, fertilizers, and labor force, as well as leasing agricultural land.
“The loss that farmers are incurring has discouraged many out of the business,” he said.
He pointed out that, among reasons that buyers cite, include Covid-19 which resulted in low demand for the produce and associated products, which made them purchase the maize from farmers at lower price than that set by MINICOM.
Amuri Havugimana, a farmer from Gatsibo Sector of Gatsibo District told The New Times that he has sold 70 kilogrammes of maize at Rwf150 each.
“This is the situation that has plunged many farmers into a financial hardship because we are not even recouping what we invested,” Havugimana said.
Jean Baptiste Bicamumpaka, one of the maize buyers in Gatsibo District told The New Times that he buys a kilo at between Rwf160 and Rwf170 depending on the quality.
He said that he is informed about the price that was set by MINICOM, but argued that the maize he buys from farmers does not meet the required standards.
“Farmers with high quality maize can wait to sell it to buyers who give higher price,” he said.
However farmers said that they end up selling at throw-away prices because they are not able to store their produce due to lack of facilities.
“Besides, by the time of harvesting, one badly needs money to meet urgent needs,” said Havugimana.
The Ministry warned that those who disregard the price set should be reprimanded.
Karangwa said that farmers who signed contracts with major buyers such as Africa Improved Foods get an even higher price than that set by Minicom.
He said that the indication is that farmers that are affected by lower prices are especially those smallholders who have no bargaining power or are unable to secure such deals with major buyers.
He urged farmers to shun buyers who give them lower prices and denounce them to local administrative entities including sectors and districts so that they are answerable to the issue.
“We are going to continue working with the local administrative entities so that we ensure the enforcement of the price,” he said.
He said that the law of 2001 concerning the organization of internal trade provides penalties of between Rwf20,000 and Rwf2 million.