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The government is looking for nearly $120 million (about Rwf80 billion) over the next five years to erect flower parks in different parts of the country,  prepare sites for growing vegetables and fruits, and build cold rooms and modern pack houses, among other national projects, to develop the horticulture sector.

The investments, along with the recent increase in air cargo service providers in the country, will ensure that the country becomes one of the reliable exporters of horticultural products in the next few years, says Amb. George William Kayonga, the director-general of the National Agricultural Export Development Board (Naeb).

The official was explaining the viability of the government’s current target for Rwanda’s non-traditional exports of fruits, vegetables, and flowers to be increased 30 per cent every year in the next three years.

Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi announced the targets last week in Parliament during his inaugural address.

In his speech, he reassured legislators that government will move swiftly to implement its agenda in line with the country’s second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) and Vision 2020 agenda.

While the government targets to increase the quantity and quality of Rwanda’s traditional agricultural exports of coffee, tea, and pyrethrum by 10 per cent every year, the premier said, the increase for non-traditional exports, including fruits, vegetables, and flowers will be three times more.

Amb. Kayonga said current challenges in the horticulture industry–which involves cultivation, processing and sale of fruits, nuts, vegetables, ornamental plants, and flowers—are being addressed and the business could be sustainable in the near future.

“The challenges in the horticulture industry are being addressed from an integrated value chain approach, where partnerships from garden to market are encouraged and supported, and hence the role of our private sector and FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) are critical in growth of the horticulture industry,” he said.

Business operators have often complained about lack of reliable supply for horticulture products in the country since there aren’t enough plantations that can be harvested throughout the year, poor packaging and freezing infrastructure, and costly transport fees to ship the products to markets abroad.

“Challenges in horticulture in Rwanda are twofold; the supply side and the demand side. On one side, we need to ensure that products are available throughout the year and the government needs to help us achieve this. On the demand side, there is need to market Rwandan products abroad,” said Vianney Kabera, the director of Fresh Pack Exports that exports fresh produce such as pepper, green beans, sweet banana, avocadoes, and many other types of fruits to Europe.

Public-private partnerships

Although Kabera has welcomed the government’s recent move to build pack houses and cold rooms at the country’s main airport and at different sale points across the country, he said more public-private partnerships are needed to make regularly irrigated farms available for horticulture.

“The export sector is too big to be handled by the private sector alone. The cost of irrigation is high and we need fully irrigated land that we could share with government to ensure that we have the products throughout the year,” Kabera said.

Amb. Kayonga said government is doing just that, revealing that six sites with irrigation infrastructure are available for contract farming in Western Province’s Karongi District, Southern Province’s Nyanza District, and in Eastern Province’s Rwamagana, Nasho, Nyagatare, and Kirehe areas.

“Local, regional, and international investors are encouraged to work with farmers on these sites,” Kayonga said.

In the same token to boost the supply side for horticulture products, the official said a 35-hectare Flower Park in Gishari in Rwamagana District, will start floriculture exports in the second quarter of 2015.

He also said the country has one national cold room at the Kigali International Airport, three regional cold rooms; Ngoma (for Eastern), Kamonyi ( for Western and Southern regions), Musanze (for Northern region), and another cold room to be available in three months in Northern Province’s Rulindo District.

A modern pack house conforming to BRC standards— a leading global safety and quality certification programme—will also be ready for use before the end of the year, Kayonga said.

“This infrastructure is sufficient to support growth of the horticulture sector in the medium term,” he explained.

While business owners, including Donatille Nibagwire who runs Kigali-based Floris company that sells flowers, say that transport of horticulture products to foreign markets remains expensive, Kayonga sees hope for reduced costs in the future.

The official said the increase in air cargo service providers in Rwanda—including  RwandAir, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways, SN Brussels, KLM, Turkish Airways, Martinair and others—have helped to reduce transport costs.

“Airfreight charges from Kigali to most destinations have dropped to levels comparable to our neighbours in the East African Community and our exporters are no longer at a disadvantage,” he said.

The government has estimated last year’s export receipts of $8.6 million from horticulture to more than double this year and to increase tremendously over the next four years.

Kayonga said the Rwf80 billion needed for investment in the horticulture industry over the next five years will come from mainly the private sector, while the public sector, local governments, and development partners are also seen as important stakeholders in the sector.

The New Times