Limitations in cross-border trade have dampened agriculture producers’ hopes for recovery from market losses accrued over two years due to the pandemic.
Despite reopening of economic activities which buoyed trade, it has emerged that restrictions at borders and high costs in logistic services continue to affect agriculture export.
The product are mainly exported to the Democratic Rupublic of Congo, South Sudan and Tanzania, according to the 2020-2021 report of National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
However, the six-year evaluation of agriculture export performance carried out by the Senate showed export volumes which had been on a steady rise until 2019, fell significantly when the pandemic hit to the lowest level to date.
Figures of its report tabled on December 2 show, for instance, the number of cattle exports which had risen to 235,858 in 2017 dropped to as low as 43,508 last year.
There has equally been a decline in the number of sheep and goats traded over the same period, prompting a significant fall in value fetched from export of live animals from $30.2 million in 2019 to as low as $9.1 million this year.
While the senate report partly fingered lack of high-yield livestock breeds for the decline, dealers and producers attributed much of the reduction to the loss of market to the pandemic.
“Up to now the flow of Congolese into the country isn’t as it used to be, and they were the major clients for things they took beyond Goma and Bukavu. Now consignments are sent across the border,” said Ezzekiel Habimana, a livestock trader in Kamembe of Rusizi town.
The Rusizi border, like other cross border points Gisenyi in Rubavu where a huge chunk of the agriculture products were channeled to the neighboring DR Congo market, was closed for the better part of 2019 and last year.