Cassava farmers are appealing to the government to intervene by taking surplus produce to minimise their losses. This follows a recent bumper harvest leading to lower cassava prices.
The price of peeled and unpeeled cassava has dropped to about Rwf80 and Rwf95 per kilogramme from Rwf150 and Rwf120 per kilogramme last year.
According to farmers, while the government encouraged them to grow cassava at a large scale, they are struggling not only to find a market for their produce but also have limited access to food processing facilities.
According to Emile Nsanzabaganwa the chief executive officer of Kinazi Cassava Plant — the sole processor of cassava in the country — production of cassava has increased to over 1,200 tonnes from just 900 tonnes in 2017. He added that production is expected to double by the end of the year.
“We expect the prices to keep reducing because production is increasing. In August we collected more cassava than was harvested in eight months last year,” said Mr Nsanzabaganwa, adding that failure to have a fixed price for cassava in the market and difficulties in getting the produce to markets keeps prices low.
Call for market liberalisation
However, some cassava farmers are calling for liberalisation of the cassava market as currently it is only members of the co-operative of Kinazi Cassava Plant who have the rights to sell to industries.
Jean Paul Mbarushimana, a cassava farmer in Muyira Sector, said they need the government to help them set up a wholesale facility to easily buy produce from farmers.
“I believe the initiative will help stabilize prices and make them more predictable ensuring good returns on our investments.
The price of peeled and unpeeled cassava last year was Frw150 and120 per Kilogram, but this year the prices have gone down to Rwf80 and Rwf 95 respectively,” said Mr Mbarushimana, adding that this is too cheap for cassava farmers.
He added that farmers are increasingly opting out of growing cassava due to unfavourable prices. “If we could get government intervention so that the prices go up to Rwf200 for a kilogram of cassava, it would be a big step ahead for us,” Mr Mbarushimana said.
However, Mr Nsanzabaganwa pointed out that farmers who voice complaints about the prices are not members of the co-operative who prefer to sell their cassava to members who supply the industry at good price.
“Farmers should know that the prices are determined by market forces of demand and supply, so if the production is high, the prices automatically reduce,” Mr Nsanzabaganwa said.
According to Jean Bosco Byiringiro a co-operative member of Kinazi Cassava Plant, there is a market for cassava, but prices are low.
“Co-operative members sell at higher prices and non-member farmers at lower prices depending on the price at the industries,” said Mr Byiringiro, adding, “This is bad because farmers are forced to join the co-operative so they can sell their products at their determined prices.”