Pineapple farmers in Eastern Province, Ngoma District in Mugesera sector have threatened to boycott the next planting season due to bad prices.
The Eastern province produces over 12,000 tonnes of pineapples annually, which are mainly consumed in the local market.
However, farmers say they are frustrated because they continue to be exploited by middle men who pay much less but double the price when selling.
For instance, farmers sell a pineapple at Rwf200 (gate price) and sells for between Rwf450 to Rwf600 in the city.
As a result, they are appealing to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to intervene by fixing prices to minimize their losses. In particular, they are asking the government to engage buyers of their produce to set prices ahead of the harvesting season.
Farmers say they ought to know the prices early enough to budget for pineapple production.
The farmers argue that pineapples should be added on the list of items whose prices are set by the government such as maize, rice and tea through the Crop Intensification Programme.
Philbert Murwanashaka, a pineapple farmer, told Rwanda Today that they are yet to sell last season’s produce, leading to losses due to lack of market and poor prices.
“Up to now I’m unable to repay back my sacco loan of Rwf700,000 to facilitate in the farming activities,” he said, adding that he could be forced to sell off his land to repay the loan.
The farmers said a ready market and fixed prices will enable them to decide whether they will plant pineapples or resort to other crops that will benefit them next season.
The farmers said they are exploited by middlemen who buy their produce at a lower price and sell for higher prices.
According to farmers, middlemen buy pineapples for Rwf200 no matter the size because they buy in large quantities, when they reach Kigali and other markets they sell the same pineapple for between Rwf450 and Rw600.
“This is a lot of profit, yet we are the ones struggling to grow the crops. On average we get a profit of less than Rwf100 per pineapple.
We are calling for government intervention to protect us from bad prices or else we grow other crops,” said the farmers.
“We didn’t know about the challenge of lack of market and poor prices for Ngoma Pineapple farmers, but we are going to take immediate action,” said Cassien Karangwa Director of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“Previously, whenever this issue was raised by Ngoma Pineapple Farmers, the ministry would intervene and negotiate with Inyange Industries to buy off their produce.
“We will find them markets in different beverage industries, as we wait for the Local Development Agency to implement the new initiative to help them get a factory to process their produce,” said Mr Karangwa.
“By next year, we should have started constructing a pineapple processing factory in one of the sectors in Ngoma District,” said Pascal Ngendahimana, division manager of local economic development at the Local Development Agency.