Farmers have nothing to celebrate from the bumper cassava harvests registered this year across major producing areas of Southern and Eastern Province.
According to farmers, market prices on the market fell below the production cost.
Farmers told Rwanda Today the adoption high yield cassava crop variety and modern farming techniques over the past two years saw output per hectare more than double to between 15 to 30 tonnes.
However, this happened at a time the volume absorbed by the sole major cassava processing plant based in Ruhango District reduced from between 70 to 100 tonnes of raw cassava daily 30 to 50 tonnes on account of operational challenges.
Besides, many small cassava processors who include individual cooperative post-harvest facilities enabling small scale value addition targeting markets across the country including exports either suspended activities or scaled down operations citing loss of markets due to the pandemic.
This saw prices farmers fetch dip to between Rwf130 and Rwf140 a kilogram of peeled roots while tubers sell at Rwf70 a kilogram.
“The calculations based on input cost show a kilogramme of peeled cassava should be between Rwf200 and Rwf220 for a farmer to make some profit. Many are selling at Rwf140 or less because they have no choice,” said Martin Harerimana, a cassava farmer in Kamonyi District.
“The effect is that many could opt out of commercial cassava farming. Those who were farming on three hectares are only doing one as they are demotivated by the loss.”
Rwanda Today learnt while the Ministry of Trade and Industry offered the cassava farmers’ platform to held farmers find alternative markets in Eastern DR Congo Goma town, the attempt had not yet yielded fruit.
Ministry of Trade and Industry officials said representative of the affected farmers were taken for a study tour and engagements with exporters in areas of Rusizi and Rubavu where it emerged that local cassava produce failed quality preferences of buyers in DR Congo who instead bought produce from Tanzania.
Cassien Karangwa, head of domestic trade at the Ministry of trade and industry told Rwanda Today all the flagged issues were to do with the use of traditional processing technique for cassava roots, which local farmers agreed to change in a bid to make their produce popular.
“It was a study tour where they learnt how to do it. They did not indicate whether they face any challenge but it appears many are hesitant to change. So, we did everything possible to find them a market. It only that it’s taking time to make changes in the way they handle their harvest,” he said.
Mr Karangwa said the ministry was still pursuing arrangements that would see cassava producers sign contracts with bulk cassava exporters that could see hundreds of tonnes absorbed daily.