Farmers in Nyabihu and neighbouring districts in Rwanda, have welcomed a new potato processing plant constructed in the district, saying it will help add value to their produce to attract better prices.
The new plant was launched on Wednesday in Mukamira Sector.
The plant, according to the Minister for Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba, is part of ongoing government efforts to construct community processing centres in various parts of the country to help farmers add value to their products.
Built at a tune of Rwf780 million, the medium potato processing factory also has training/incubation facilities.
The plant has capacity to produce four potato products; crisps, chips, whole peeled potato, and whole cleaned potatoes for sale to super markets and schools.
Emeritte Mukashema, one of the farmers, said it was good news as they will be able to sell their produce to the plant at a good price instead of selling to middlemen at giveaway prices.
“We are hopeful the plant will be our main client, we sell produce to collection centres but with this plant there will be competition, which will lead to better prices than before,” she said.
Isaac Nzabarinda, the president of Irish Potato farmers in Northern Province, said the plant will not only help stabilise prices but also encourage modern farming.
“The plant buys produce according to set standards and farmers will have to work hard to improve the quality of their produce. We are required to do our best to get quality production.”
Minister Kanimba said farmers’ worries about market have been addressed.
“Irish potatoes would be sold at a low price due to lack of market, the plant is one of the measures put in place to ensure more value is given to the crop as potatoes will be transformed in various products which can be conserved for long.”
He stressed the need to work hard to increase quality and quantity of potatoes to satisfy the local market with surplus for export to regional markets.
A kilogramme of selected Irish potatoes can go up to Rwf250, while the normal potatoes cost between Rwf150 and Rwf180.
The potato plant has capacity to process 500 kilogrammes per hour. It is the second of its kind after another one opened in Musanze last year.
Farmers were encouraged to look for high yield seeds to plant.
The plant was by constructed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, through the National Industrial Research and Development Agency, in partnership with Business Development Fund and farmers’ cooperative in Nyabihu.
Irish potatoes are largely cultivated in north-west of the country with an estimated 70,000 farmers practicing potato farming mainly through cooperatives.