Potato farmers in Rwanda are counting their losses, claiming that they are selling their produce at 'giveaway' prices, despite the cost remaining high on the market.
Farmers who talked to The New Times said they last experienced such low prices eight years ago.
Pierre Nsanzumuhire, a farmer from Musanze district, who, last week, sold six sacks of potato:
"We are selling one kilogram at between Rwf100 and Rwf120 (about USD 0.10 and USD 0.12). I recall the same price in 2014. We are counting losses because we bought seeds at Rwf600 a kilogram."He said that besides the seeds, the price of fertilizers and agrochemicals has also increased drastically. The farmers have also requested the government to extend subsidies on agrochemicals and seeds that are often available at high prices to allow them to make profits from the investment.
"The price of one kilogram of fertilizers increased from Rwf713 (about USD 0.71) to Rwf1,000 (about USD 1) and a quantity of agrochemicals we used to buy at Rwf3,800 is now going for Rwf5,000. With all such required investment, a farmer needs at least Rwf200 (about USD 0.10) price for one Kilogramme of the harvest."Colette Nyirahabimana, a farmer from the Rubavu district said that they are selling at Rwf110 (about USD 0.11) per kilogram of potato.
"We used to sell at Rwf250 (about USD 0.25) in the past years. Decreasing to Rwf110 means a huge loss considering the cost it requires to invest in potato growing."Representatives of farmers are saying that while farmers are getting lower prices; middlemen are making a lot of money from supplying potatoes to Kigali city and other markets. A mini-survey by this paper has found that one kilogram of potato in Kigali city is being sold at between Rwf280 and Rwf350 (about USD 0.28 and USD 0.35).
This implies that there is a difference of over Rwf200 (about USD 0.20) per Kilogramme considering what a farmer is getting. Joseph Gafaranga, Secretary-General of Rwanda Farmers Organization 'Imbaraga' told The New Times that the prices are unfair despite the good harvest.
"The price in the harvesting is lower compared to the other seasons in the recent years. Such price had never decreased in the last two years."He said that there should e a special arrangement so that farmers harvest on different days to attract a fair price.
"What is hurting farmers is that middlemen are making profits alone. A farmer should get at least Rwf200 (about USD 0.20) per Kilogramme of Irish Potato if you think of the investment it requires."He said that according to calculations the supplier who buys potato from farmers should get Rwf25,000 (about USD 24.88) per five tones or Rwf50,000 (about USD 49.75) per 10 tonnes every day which is Rwf750,000 (about USD 746.27) and Rwf1.5 million (about USD 1492.54) per 30 days respectively after deducting all expenses including transport, labor force, and others.
However, he said middlemen are getting extra profits yet they do not give a fair price to farmers.
"When a kilogramme was at Rwf200 (about USD 0.20) to farmer, it was between Rwf300 (about USD 0.30) and Rwf350 (about USD 0.35) in Kigali. And now it is Rwf100 (about USD 0.10) to the farmer, the price remains Rwf350 (about USD 0.35) in Kigali. Consumers in Kigali should at least also get it at a lower price or if not, let farmers also get a good price."The New Times contacted the Ministry of Trade and Industry for a comment about the issue but had not yet responded by press time.
Meeting on Thursday Gafaranga said that this week on Thursday, the organization will hold a meeting with farmers, the ministry of trade and industry, the agriculture ministry, and others to discuss the issue. At least between Rwf150 tonnes and 550 tonnes of potatoes are supplied to Kigali every day.
Rwanda produces an average of 916,000 tonnes of potatoes every year, making it the third most popular food crop produced in the country. Potatoes cover 3.9 percent of the national total cultivated area.
The average productivity of potatoes is ten tonnes per hectare which are low as compared to yield potential. The Northern volcanic region accounts for more than 80 percent of national potato production and 60 percent of the production is used directly for home consumption in this region.