Rwanda is importing maize from Tanzania to meet growing demand following insufficient local production.
Maize dealers say local production is not sufficient because out of the 424,204 tonnes produced locally, 30 per cent is consumed by households.
The market is left with around 290,000 tonnes for processing, which is not sufficient.
“We are getting the quality we want but not the quantity we need. We have to source outside the country for about 50 per cent of the maize we need,” said Prosper Ndayiragije, country manager for Africa Improved Foods Rwanda Ltd.
Minimax, also a big maize dealer in the country, said that in the past two weeks, they have only managed to get 45 tonnes from maize farmers’ co-operatives, with 1,000 tonnes sourced from the old stock to meet demand.
“Locally-harvested maize production that could still be available in the market, from the past harvesting season cannot exceed 10 per cent,” said Moses Ndayisenga, the maize procurement co-ordinator at Minimex.
According to the Regional Agricultural Trade Information Network, despite the country having a good farming season, production has exceeded demand, which has led to a heavy reliance on imports due to fewer stocks and lack of strategic reservoirs compared with regional countries.
Maize prices are also going up from Rwf187,500 per tonne in April to Rwf339,600 per tonne.
“We are currently relying on imports because to sustain Bralirwa’s maize demand for example, which needs at least 400 tonnes every month, we need to import over 200 tonnes to fill the gap in the local market,” said Mr Ndayisenga.
While some regional countries have banned exportation of their maize due to high local demand, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania have plenty of maize.
However, only Tanzania has allowed maize exports, which has seen it supply most of the region.
“Tanzania maize exports will keep coming in until we are able to increase our yields,” said Charles Murekezi, director-general of agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
According to maize dealers, maize exports from Zambia and Malawi would be much cheaper in the region, with a tonne costing between Rwf190,000 and Rwf145,000), but both countries have imposed an export ban on maize to maintain local demand.
The Regional Agricultural Trade Information Network said the local maize market started feeling the pinch when the border issues with Uganda escalated.
The flow of Ugandan maize in Rwanda has sharply reduced from 122 tonnes in March to three tonnes in April.
As the maize shortage bites, end users of maize like beer companies that use maize to manufacture their products are likely to feel the pinch.
Sander Bakelman, the supply chain director at Bralirwa, said the company is thinking of diversifying into other commodities like sorghum, rice, and barley to replace maize in beer making.