It is under this context that a meeting of stakeholders in horticulture subsector was convened in Kigali on 20th November 2020 to discuss issues and opportunities around the seed industry in Rwanda.
Participating horticulture farmers expressed concerns over hiked vegetable, fruits seed prices especially French beans and chili and appealed to the Government to introduce seed-subsidy program to facilitate their farming.
They explained that chili farmers need Rwf 700,000 or Rwf 1 million to afford seeds to plant on a hectare depending on sought variety while the price for French beans seeds to be planted on a hectare is Rwf 500,000.
Devotha Mukaserire, the representative of farmers’ groups involved in the agriculture of fruits, vegetables and flowers in Rwanda cited higher price for Hybrid seeds as one of major challenges facing farmers.
“Seeds for vegetables are very expensive. Most of them are imported leading to higher prices. That’s the most challenging issue. This pushes farmers try to evade the high cost by multiplying seeds themselves with inadequate skills that sometimes multiply seeds from sick crops resulting into the spread of crop diseases,” she said.
Mukaserire explained that chili and French beans are the most expensive even though seeds for tomatoes, carrots and green pepper and green pepper are not sold at fair price.
She appealed to the Government to intervene by producing expensive seeds locally to make them affordable at lower cost or implement subsidy measures to facilitate smallholder farmers who fail to plant these crops due to soaring price.
Emille Uwimana, a chilli farmer in Rwamagana district also reminisced on the higher and demanded for measures to subsidize vegetable seed price.
“I am required Rwf 720,000 to grow chili on a hectare and over Rwf 500,000 to grow French beans on the same land. This is additional to funds invested to hire arable land and pesticides making it a huge investment,” he said.
Uwimana said that expensive price incurs loss sometimes in case of poor market conditions.
Alex Uwizeye, Country Coordinator of AgriProFocus, an international multi-stakeholder network in the agri-food sector explained that expensive seeds matters but should be taken into business perspective.
“We consider something expensive when invested money cannot be recovered. However, it is corresponding when something expensive brings good productivity. The matter should be finding out whether everyone can afford such seeds. Not everyone can afford it but we don’t want everyone to grow chili,” he said.
Uwizeye however explained that concerned parties including AgriProFocus are seeking remedy to produce vegetable seeds locally.
Dr Assinapol Ndereyimana, a researcher at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) explained that French beans and chili are particularly for business people.
“Chili is exported and seeds grown in most places are the same. It is rarely sold at low-cost. The seeds for chili are not expensive on one hand because many people are doing it for business purposes. I am against the idea of introducing subsidy program for chili growing yet it is like other businesses,” he said.
Dr Ndereyimana highlighted that other seeds are classified into different categories that farmers can chose from a wide variety matching their financial means.
He pointed out that onion seeds vary from Rwf 10,000 and Rwf 40,000 while the cost of Hybrid seed costs Rwf 150,000.
RAB is undergoing research on chili seeds so that they can be produced locally.
Jacques Tuyishime, the Managing Director of Holland Green Tech which sells agro-inputs including vegetable seeds among other agricultural equipment explained that high cost of vegetable seeds emanates from resources investing by manufacturers.
“Planting chili on a hectare might require between Rwf 700,000 and Rwf 1 million investments on seeds. However, the produce recovers the capital and generates profit. If chili seeds take 10% of the capital, it doesn’t mean expensive cost. Farmers have inadequate means sometimes requiring them to seek loans from financial institutions. It takes big investments but generates huge returns,” he observed.