Local rice processors have protested importation of cheap rice from the region, which make their products uncompetitive in the market.
The rice millers blamed this to both high input costs in the value chain and low import duty that facilitate entry of cheaper supplies from Tanzania.
“We had managed to be competitive because imports allowed in had remained strictly grade one, but since June Tanzania started sending in cheaper grade two and three rice that saw us completely unable to compete,” said Peter Uwamahoro, vice chairman of Rwanda Forum of Rice Millers.
“We are asking for protection because most of us have loans to pay, and we need to get ready to take farmers’ produce in the coming harvest season in December,” he added.
Trade Ministry figures indicate that rice imports have been coming in to fill a shortage averaged at 46 percent as do-mestic production has been contributing only 54 per cent of the total amount of rice consumed each year over the past five years.
Local millers, however, argue that the high production costs in the value chain, and the prevailing quality issues continue to exacerbate importation pressures as peers in the neighbouring countries with highly subsidised sectors continue to send in rice at much lower prices.
A 2018 in-depth analysis of value chain for intensified crops and market prices in Rwanda conducted by the civil society indicated that importing farm inputs for rice production ranked among key factors making it impossible for local produce to compete with imports ones.
Besides Tanzanian rice, other popular imported brands come from Asian countries — Thailand and Pakistan.
Rice remains one of the sensitive commodities whose prices are regulated every season by Ministry of Trade and Industry right from the farm gate to the market shelves.
The tariff, which are prone to constant fluctuation linked to farm input costs, were this season set at between Rwf17,000 and Rwf17,500 for a 25-kilo sack of long grain rice and between Rwf15,000 and Rwf15,500 for short grain rice.
The tariff structure was based on the input cost computation for the season estimated at between Rwf330 and Rwf350 a kilo having risen from Rwf270 to Rwf295 the previous season.