Rwanda: Low productivity makes farmers unable to compete with cheap imported wheat

Farmers and other players in the agriculture sector have blamed the high cost of production, and low productivity per farm that makes locally produced wheat more costly imported one.

The situation has pushed some wheat processing factories to import from abroad, Sunday Times has learnt.

Patrick Buseruka, a wheat farmer from Nyamagabe District, told Sunday Times that local farmers need manure, chemical fertilisers and seeds as well as cover expenses on different farming activities to get yields, which makes cost of production at farm level expensive.

He expressed that farmers have hiked their prices of their wheat because of low productivity per farm, pointing out that the average wheat production per hectare is 3.2 tonnes.

Last season, he said, based on investment by farmers, a kilogramme of wheat cost at least Rwf350 and Rwf400 when the produce was transported to processing factories.

He said that imported wheat is less expensive than the one grown domestically because productivity in the countries from which it is imported is higher than in Rwanda, while their cost of production is lower.

“If they have mechanised agriculture whereby tilling land, harvesting and threshing activities are done by modern machinery, that makes cultivation efficient.

That is different from Rwanda, where a farmers use manual labour and harvests with rudimentary techniques which results in extra labour,” he said.

For soil with high acidity like Nyamagabe District, Buseruka said, farmers also have to apply lime to their soil so that it becomes productive.

“In fact, a farmer should make benefits from high productivity, not a high price. If a farmer has harvested, say, three tonnes and sells a kilogramme at Rwf400, that is Rwf1.2 million in total. If another farmer gets five tonnes per hectare, and sells a kilogramme at Rwf300, they get Rwf1.5 million. This example shows that the farmer gets returns when they have more farm produce even when they sell at lower price,” he said.

Prospert Biganimbuga, the Managing Director of Gitare Mills Ltd, a Nyamagabe District-based wheat processing factory, told Sunday Times that the produce per hectare in Rwanda is still low, and local farmers want to get more money for the little produce they get.

He said that farmers want the processor to buy their wheat at between Rwf420 and Rwf450 a kilogramme, yet Biganimbuga says the processor can only pay Rwf300, explaining that lack of agreement on a price has made the processor reluctant to buy from local farmers.

He pointed out that the factory signed a contract with farmers’ cooperatives to supply it with 800 tonnes of wheat per season, but it was only supplied 150 tonnes.

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