Farmers in Kirehe District are hoarding over 200 tonnes of maize in anticipation of high prices, even as millers complain of diminishing supplies.
Millers say the situation will increase the price of flour at the market if nothing is done to curb the shortage.
“Last season, production was over 70 thousand tonnes of maize, this season we only produced less than 40 thousand tonnes,” according to Jean Damascène Nsengiyumva Vice-Mayor of Economic Development in Kirehe.
In this season, about five sectors of Kigarama, Nyamugari, Mpanga, and Hamba, didn’t produce enough yet they were the major suppliers of maize in the entire district.
“We are worried that soon we won’t have a single ton of maize, which will raise prices and so we are looking at neighbouring countries for maize supplies,” said Mr Nsengimana.
“The fixed price of maize by the agriculture ministry across the country is Rwf200 per kilo, but in Kirehe it has risen to about Rw250,” he added.
Cassien Karangwa, director of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry said the government is aware of the issue and will address it, but added that it has not reached an alarming level.
“The issue is not alarming but we are working to see that areas with shortages get access to imported supplies from neighbouring countries or other districts in the country with bumper harvests,” said Mr Karangwa.
He added that, “countrywide there is a shortage of maize due to bad weather experienced in different parts of the country.”
“Apart from the weather challenge, farmers themselves have detected the shortage in the market and decided to take advantage of the situation by hoarding available supplies in a bid to sell for higher prices,” said Mr Karangwa.
The hoarding has also given the impression of extreme scarcity.
“The price of one kilogram of dry, peeled corn has increased with by Rwf50 over the past two months because of farmers’ hoarding maize. This is what is causing prices to go up,” he said.
The ministry says the price of maize has shot up to Rwf25,000 per 100-kilogram bag from a low of Rwf19,000 in May last year.
Maize flour traders and retailers say the situation has also affected them and they are forced to push the price onto the consumers.
Currently supplies have gone down drastically,” said Francis Kabera, a maize flour wholesale trader at Nyarugenge market.
He said flour from Tanzania will not help stabilise prices as it is still an expensive option and consumers are opting for cassava flour as it is cheaper.