Gikonko rice growers open a Rwf400m building

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On 13 April 2017 saa 08:56
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Union of rice growers’ cooperatives that supply to Gikonko rice firm (UCORIBU) have launched the first phase of the hospitality buildings that will fully be completed in the next three years at the tune of Rwf400 million.

UCORIBU is a union of 10 cooperatives including seven, two and one from the districts of Gisagara, Nyanza and Huye, respectively. The union’s equity stands at Rwf280 million. It has 13,014 rice growers who own 40% of the shares in Gikonko rice firm while Australian investor, Mr. Douglas Shears has 60% through his ICM company that owns shares in other rice firms in Rwamagana and Bugarama.

Speaking at the launch of the project’s first building, Jean Pierre Mushokambere, the president of UCORIBU, said the union first ventured into COOPEC Impamba, a microfinance institution that boasts of the Central Bank’s license and equity of Rwf80 million.

He said they have decided to venture into hospitality to reduce the expenses on venues for their members’ training.

“We have been spending on hiring conference rooms yet we have means to develop our own meeting facilities. This is the first part of the project but we shall expand it to provide accommodation facilities to serve our members and make more money from clients. The launched house offers facilities for training and wedding parties, among other services,” said Mushokambere.

The building unveiled on April 6,2017 cost over Rwf48 million, the second part comprising restaurant and bar will cost Rwf30 miliion while the third phase will add a flat building with guests rooms, taking the project at Rwf400 million.

Sharon H. Umuratwa, the ICM Operations Manager, hailed UCORIBU’s success over the last 10 years partnering with ICM, saying that the completed building conveys a message that the union will achieve much more.

ICM has has responded to farmers’ wishes for computers to their agronomists and scales weighing up to one ton of rice for each cooperative’s use in the farm.

“Computers will help agronomists to harmonize their work and that will benefit you (farmers). Let us work harder because as we develop ourselves, our district and entire country develop too through your taxes,” said Umuratwa.

Kayiranga Muzuka Eugène, Mayor of Huye District, encouraged rice growers to increase the production and supply all the produce to the firm instead of selling to illegal buyers.

“This production increment to six tons per hectare can be increased further to seven or eight tons. That will come from our commitment to better rice farming and growing good seeds,” he said.

Gikonko rice grows better

Umuratwa said that last year’s production was much bigger than all the previous years, resulting into sales growth and from the firm’s revenues, ICM has committed Rwf10 million to UCORIBU to benefit all members.

“Some middlemen often tell you that a fixed price is never exceeded but you will soon receive a bonus of Rwf77 million because we sold much rice in 2016. That money will reach every farmer according to the quantity they supplied to the firm. This is a sign of how far we can reach together as UCORIBU and ICM. Our rice quality has improved and is challenging Pakistani at the market,” she said.

In 2016, the firm’s revenues grew by 18% compared to 2015 due to the rice supplies growth by 36% leading to sales growth by 23% and the firm’s wealth grew by 24%.

Firm suppliers count benefits

Jean Baptiste Ntawuhiganayo, 45, told IGIHE that; “working closely with the firm has helped me to construct a house and relocated from a risky zone, pay children’s school fees and improved family’s welfare.”

He said farmers used to sell rice to different middlemen at giveaway prices before acquiring the firm but the price is now far better with the firm, “even giving us a bonus when the firm makes a good profit.” He says he earns at least Rwf1.2 million annually.

Celine Uwanyiligira , a member of Rusuki cooperative in Huye, said she is now providing well for her family which she was unable to afford including community health insurance (Mutuelle de Santé) before starting rice faming.

Gikonko rice firm has installed capacity of processing 12,000 tons of rice per year but the firm is currently doing 6,000 tons as more efforts get summoned to increase production.

The firm and farmers’ progress is attributed to the government efforts in developing marshlands into good rice farms and eliminating middlemen in rice value chain.

By Jean d’Amour Mugabo