In recent years, government has taken measures to reduce or stop fruit imports especially apples that have become a forbidden fruit because of high prices.
The costs of several popular varieties of the fresh fruits are relatively expensive but apples command higher prices costing Rwf400 in most major retail outlets and Rwf350 in markets.
One major step to stop apple fruit imports was to import seedlings that are still on trial in different research centres across the country.
According to Nsanzabaganwa Epimaque Head of Horticulture Production Division, in 2010 government through Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA) seeds and were planted on 10hct while last year cuttings were also imported from Uganda to plant 20hactares in Gicumbi district.
“The two varieties on trial have proved the possibility to grow on Rwandan temperatures but we are still monitoring their adaptability in different parts of the country,” Nsanzabaganwa said.
The first varieties being tried in Rwanda are Anna and Dorset Golden, the types that have been proved to be grown in other tropical countries including neighboring Uganda.
“They Anna and Dorset Golden are normally better with 1500 metres above the sea mean level and most parts of our country are in that range of altitude especially in North, South and Western parts,” he said.
Last year imported apples were valued at Rwf231, 609,233 million from 391,857 tonnes, Rwandan apples are mainly imported from South Africa.
Government is looking on to how to produce seedlings locally because imported ones seem to be costing much at US$5 per seedling but once produced locally prices per seed will be reduced to US$2.
Nsanzabaganwa says the volumes imported can be grown in the country and on less than 20hactares.
Research also shows that these varieties take short time to blossom (two years) in tropical countries compared to any temperate where it takes four years and can be harvested twice a year unlike once year in other areas.
“Early fruit bearing, and possibilities to be harvested twice a year are proof that the crop can yield high with the country’s temperatures and the potential it has to bridge the imports,” he assured.
He however, says it’s difficult to know the market demand due to limited supply.
Awareness campaign on the crop is intended to be conducted across the country because farmers still believe that apples could only thrive in European countries or those countries with cold climates (winter).
It is expected that once farmers take up apple growing, the market is overwhelming but also slash price and make fruits affordable by many Rwandans.
However, a number of challenges threaten this flourishing new crop.
A lot of awareness is needed on how to take care of the crop like defoliation and other good agricultural practices to maximize production.
It is said that apples can allow inter-cropping; they don’t need frequent plaughing and weeding yet with 50 years of commercial production.