Covid-19 protocols and other restrictions in European markets have made access of exports from Rwanda difficult.
Drop in prices on the international market, low purchasing power, Brexit as well as high cargo charges are taking toll on horticulture sector, forcing other players to throw in the towel.
The UK market has been pivotal to Rwandan horticulture exporters because for long it has acted as a collection hub for all horticulture products to be sold in all European markets, but Brexit took this option away.
“We are in our toughest times as horticulture exporters, prices have dipped, purchasing power is low and Brexit has dealt us a blow. Some European buyers who used to pick our products from the UK are trying to buy from us directly but access is still a problem” said Rukundo.
Robert, president of horticulture exporters association. He said the problems they started facing since 2020, some Covid-19 related and others related to interceptions in the UK, have killed entire
value chains of certain export crops.
The interception of products at the UK entry led to untold losses as many farmers remained helpless when their chilli went to waste in farms. During the period, exporters stopped buying chili after losing a number of their consignments to interceptions.
Ronald Musiime invested his two years of savings in planting chili for export; he worked closely with his potential buyer throughout the entire cycle, but the time for harvest came when the market was at its worst shape.
The prices had significantly fallen and his potential buyer had just had his chili intercepted twice at the UK entry twice and lost everything, so he had halted buying any more chili to stem losses.
“I lost everything, the chili ripened until it started rotting, I tried selling it locally but they were giving me peanuts, the local processors were also over-stocked because many farmers were going through the same thing,” said Mr Musiime.
The farm gate prices have significantly fallen to as low as Rwf200, the highest being Rwf400, yet two years ago the lowest a kilogramme of habanero chili went for was Rwf1500.
The horticulture products holding fort for the sector now are avocados and French beans that are exported to Dubai, France and a few other countries.
Mr Rukundo said due to the interceptions and other supply chain challenges; the fresh hot pepper export value chain has collapsed.