Many households across the country are struggling to put food on the table after a sharp rise in prices, especially those that make up the country’s food basket, as inflation hits a record 20 percent high.
Farmers and analysts in the agricultural sector attribute this to scarcity of seeds and the high cost of fertilisers and other inputs, which have greatly affected food production.
Musanza for instance, one of the areas that produces the biggest quantities of Irish potatoes, had one of the lowest volumes the district has ever produced.
The low production led to a sharp rise in the price of Irish potatoes, with 1kg reaching Rwf500 in Musanze from as low as Rwf200.
The same applies to other staples like beans, maize flour, rice and sweet potatoes. The lack of seed multiplication centers to serve farmers led to scarcity of seeds and rise in prices. For instance, 1kg of Irish potato seeds were costing up to Rwf1000, becoming unaffordable to many farmers.
“Prices of seeds for staple foods have shot up; seeds are beyond reach for many farmers and this has significantly affected volumes this year. It might actually get worse if nothing is done to reverse this,” said Jean Paul Munyakazi, the head of Imbaraga, a lobby for farmers.
He said more seed multiplication centres were needed closer to farmers and other interventions to bring down the prices of seeds.
“In a season we used to harvest at least 12 tonnes of Irish potatoes per hectare, but now we are getting less than eight tonnes from one hectare,” he noted.
Impact on inflation
This issue was raised by farmers to President Paul Kagame in his recent upcountry tour. The country’s inflation stood at 20.4 percent in August, according to the Rwanda Institute of Statistics.
The urban Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 15.9 percent, while rural CPI grew by 23.6 percent in August. A litre of milk that went for Rwf400 now at Rwf700; Irish potatoes that went for Rwf300 per kg now cost Rwf600 in Kigali, and bread moved from Rwf1000 to Rwf1700.
Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages grew by 29.2 percent, bread and cereals increased by 27.9 percent, meat by 19.4 percent, milk cheese and eggs grew by 12.6 percent, while vegetables grew by 35.5 percent.
The surge in food prices on the market has already exerted pressure on vulnerable households, many where bread winners are yet to recover from the economic setbacks of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I sent my family back to the village as I look for casual jobs. But I have even failed to feed them from there; prices have almost doubled and all this has left an intense pressure on my marriage," said Munyampenda Athanase, a casual labourer in Kigali.
Munyakazi of Imbaraga added that labour flight has been evidenced in the food crop production, as workers leave for higher paying areas like tea plantations.
He said labourers that used to be paid Rwf800 per day now charge as high as Rwf1800 per day, getting out of reach for many farmers.