Maize farmers rue post-harvest losses

Wednesday March 18 2020

maize

quality storage facilities for their produce as the country continues to experience heavy rainfall. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya  

LEONCE MUVUNYI
By LEONCE MUVUNYI
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Maize farmers in Huye district are worried that they may incur more losses due to limited access to quality storage facilities for their produce as the country continues to experience heavy rainfall.

They are concerned about limited post-harvest handling facilities including drying shelters and plastic sheets needed to protect their produce.

As the rainfall increases, maize is damaged because it is kept outdoors, exposing it to aflatoxin that make it difficult to meet the quality of standards demanded by buyers or processors.

According to Francine Mukabutera, a farmer in Mukoni swamp, following the suspension issuing plastic sheets with government subsidy, many of them have left stranded as few of them are still rely on the old ones.

“We were requested to pay Rwf7,000 per sheet as we used to do but we were given back the money and been told that there are no more sheets left as the government subsidy has been suspended,” she added.

The farmers are considering taking home their produce from the co-operatives collection points to prevent the escalation of losses they could face.

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“Our produce is drowning in rain. It would be better if we were allowed to take it home, where we can keep it safe,” said Peter Celestin Kalimunda, a member of Farmers’ Co-operative of Mpaza, which brings together over 600 farmers in Huye.

Members’ of the co-operative have been stopped from taking at home produce, yet this would enable to save the little they have managed to reap from the new variety of maize seed they acquired from Rwanda Agriculture Board.

Plastic sheets or any other suitable material that could prevent seepage of moisture from the ground from reaching the maize cobs, are unavailable and there is no word about the government's pledge to make drying shelters available.

According to the farmers, while they have given a new variety of maize seeds with expectation of a bumper harvest, the variety appears to be incompatible with the wetland ecology, which has seen them realise a poor harvest instead.

“We have been given this hybrid type of maize for the past season, but due to its poor adaptation to the wetlands, we harvested almost nothing. However, those who planted it on hillsides managed to realise good harvests,” said Charles Habimana, a far0mer in Mukoni.

According to the farmers, with the cost of maize farming on one parcel is around Rwf40,000, and on average 150kg is produced, they get poor returns on their investment as their produce is being bought at Rwf220 per kilogramme.

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