Rwandans are staring at a likely shortage of farm and livestock produce in the coming months due to drought which is expected to hit the key national food baskets.
This comes at a time the country's food reserves are used up after being given out to o thousands of vulnerable homes during anti-coronavirus lockdowns.
Now, some leading agro-processing dealers say they are facing limited local supply and are anticipating shortages.
For example, while agro-processors like Minimex, Sosoma Industries, and Africa Improved Foods were able to stock volumes of raw materials such as grains from the yields registered in season A last year, and continue to supplement it with imports, there are worries over the effect of bad weather on this season's harvest.
This is partly because farmers embarked on the 2022 A agriculture season last month amid uncertainties linked to the unusual dry spell predicted to hit several areas of arid Eastern and Southern Province.
The weather forecast released in August showed areas such as Bugesera, Kirehe, Kayonza and Gatsibo will experience prolonged dry spell from September to December, the important rainfall season for the country.
Already players in the agriculture sector say the prolonged dry season since July occasioned a shortage in key farm and livestock supplies with prices of essentials predicted to rise.
Cost of staples particularly rose after the reopening of economic activities with all sectors, including schools, competing for the available volumes.
“Indeed we are worried because the areas mentioned by the weatherman are the country’s main grain basket. That will expose us to high import expenses,” said Moses Ndayisenga, supply chain manager at Minimex, a local maize processor absorbing over 2,000 tonnes per month.
“ The government should help find a source of supplies ahead of time using its embassies and other platforms....” Both Minimex and Sosoma Industries reported rising cost of quality maize from Rw200 a few months ago,to between Rwf300 and Rw310 a kilo and could be rise to around Rwf350 a kilo by December.
The cost of other grains such as wheat and sorghum were relatively stable but are expected to rise just like soybeans whose cost rose from $400 a tonne to $1,200 in neighbouring countries where they are sourced.
Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) on their plans to tackle the likely effects of the drought bore no fruit by the time of going to press.
A 2016 dry spell likened to the one predicted had sent inflation skyrocketing with processors sourcing raw materials from as far as Southern Africa while locals in arid Eastern and Southern areas grappled with both hunger and a general rise in cost of essentials.
In its message to farmers ahead of the 2022 A season, however, Minagri urged those living in areas flagged as prone to the drought to plant quick yielding crop varieties, and harvest water for use during times of decreased or no precipitation.
Farmers say that while the North and North West received ample rains that allowed members to plant crops and proceed with the season unimpeded, it was not the case for their peers in parts of the Southern and Eastern Province where rains came late and remain too erratic to allow planting.
It appears production will depend largely on irrigation, and that’s costly. Also, not many farmers have fields close water sources,” said Joseph Gafaranga, head of Imbaraga, one of the largest farmers’ associations in the country.