The concern was raised on Tuesday as the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana appeared before parliament explain persistent problems in agriculture.
MP Athanasie Nyiragwaneza observed that they have met farmers running short of seedlings despite the annual approval of the budget to support agriculture which also caters for the provision of fruit tree seeds.
“Funds to make fruit seedlings accessible have been provided but we have been finding people having no seedlings. It took a lot of funds but digging deeper into root causes of the problem we find that some people are not informed,” she said.
Nyiragwaneza revealed that the money to provide seedlings was not delivered to farmers in some areas while others who got the money planted few and used the rest for other purposes.
MP Léonard Ndagijimana reiterated that even few planted seedlings are not properly taken care of.
He pointed out some areas where pests destroyed mango trees without interventions.
“Fruit seedlings are planted but there is no follow up. Why are we discussing to plant more yet existing ones are deteriorating? Mangoes in town, Eastern and Southern Province are affected by diseases and no one is following up. They suffer from diseases of small white insects preventing absorption of nutrients,” he said.
MPs also decried concentration of much effort in exported fruits while there are others in Rwanda that can contribute to eradicate malnutrition.
Minister Mukeshimana explained that a lot was achieved over the past three years increasing the quantity of edible fruits especially avocado, mangoes and Macadamia.
She said that 79, 900 mango trees, 158 512 avocado trees were planted in 2016/2017 adding that 45 488 avocado trees, 124 100 mango trees and 14 000 macadamia trees were planted in 2017/2018.
Dr Mukeshimana attributed the scarcity of fruit trees to high cost of grafted plants.
“Grafted plants are still expensive because it takes time to reach maturity. For instance, an avocado requires at least between 9-12 months while macadamia takes 18 months to have the seedling ready for planting,” she said.
Dr Mukeshimana has however revealed a plan to follow up seedlings for edible fruits and establishing rules for standard nurseries.
She said each family will be mobilized to plant at least three varieties of edible fruits to combat malnutrition. A total of 8 million fruits trees are expected to be planted under this countrywide program within two years.
Figures from MINAGRI indicate that 150,000 avocado trees and 150,000 macadamia trees are expected to be planted in 2019/2020.