Smallholder farmers are approaching the next season with mixed feelings, saying that while their produce last season recorded poor performance in the market, they now have to contend with expensive inputs.
And even as the farmers get down to prepare for the next farming season in 2022 as the rain started falling last week they are constrained financially.
“Last season was fairly good with plenty of harvest but with the pandemic’s disruption, farmers didn’t make as much as they would have wished,” Simon Twahirwa, the president of Duhurizehamwe Mugera, a maize farming cooperative in the Burera district told Rwanda Today.
“Before the pandemic, the market was competitive, given that we would to sell to whoever wanted the produce, but we have signed contracts with buyers but have been unable to do so,” he added.
Farmers say logistical disruptions resulted in lower prices for crops. For example, maize prices decreased in the first quarter due to lack of access to markets, making it harder for traders and others to qualify for loan facilities.
“Some farmers have been relying on financial institutions for funding but with the pandemic, some of them opt to either sell some of their livestock or land to keep farming going,” Twahirwa.
According to the farmers, while the market offers Rwf160 per kilo, a farmer spends Rwf195 to harvest one kilo.
On losses, Denyse Uwababyeyi ventured into watermelon farming last year as the pandemic situation was improving, expecting a good market.
However, the situation remains frosty for her business as hotels and restaurants have been hard hit.
“From around 500 watermelons, I hoped for a Rwf1.2 million windfall, but given the circumstances, I got only around half of that,” Uwababyeyi said.
According to the farmers, with the increased prices, getting sufficient agricultural inputs for next season will not be easy as the government dropped some subsidies on imported inputs.
The Ministry of Agriculture says the initial resistance by some farmers on the locally multiplied seeds loosened and the mindset shifting and as season preparations get to an advanced stage.
The ministry indicates that more than 4,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser and 125 tonnes of maize seed have been distributed across the country.
Also, the higher cost of fertilisers will almost certainly contribute to farmers’ woes in the next season.
A kilogramme of NPK 17.17.17 fertiliser jumped to Rwf713 from Rwf620, while the price of DAP has reached Rwf633 from Rwf480, while UREE sells at Rwf564 from Rwf462 per kilo.
“Some of us took loans from banks or with Tubura to continue farming despite market issues and expensive inputs.
However, the loans might prove dear as some farmers may sell their land,” Celestin Ntamukunzi, president of the farmers’ cooperative in Burera said.