Rwandan rice farmers have a reason to smile because of growing appetite for their rice in the East African community bloc. The official export of rice grains from Rwanda has increased by 230 times in the 2015-2016 seasons, and its revenue increased by 468 times compared to the previous season. Farmers had experienced a bad season in the first period where rice export represented only 863,301 kilograms out of which 29,750 kilograms was of formal export, generating a total $ 844,376. In the just ended season (2015-2016), export of rice marked the highest increase ever with a total 7,433,302 kilograms, including a very high proportion from formal import (6,832 tons) and a total earning of $ 5,185,845.
Antoine Habyarimana, President of rice farmers’ federation that grows rice on 1543 hectares in Bugarama sector, Rusizi district said that, “In the last two years, we were able to grow over 6 tons of rice per hectare. This had never happened before.” He said that their projection is declining to 4.5 tons per hectare, compared to 4.7 tons per hectare, the national average. In general, the national expectation in rice production was reviewed downward from 5.8 tons in 2015-2016. Decline of rice production will give more chance to foreign brands, including Tanzanian and Pakistani rice. He further said, “After harvest, we sell to accredited wholesalers only after giving every member of the cooperative, rice for family consumption.”
Increase of cereal export cuts across all the grains, with maize also earning well for the country. Christine Murebwayire, the head of Chamber of Agriculture at Rwanda Private sector federation explained, that the positive trend in grain export is attributed to “partnership between our chamber and the Rwanda Agriculture Board”. She said the institution helped farmers to identify good seeds and to link up with recognized fertilizer distributors. For that fact, she said, rice production increased to 5-5.5 tons per hectare in 2015-2016, compared to 3.5 tons in the previous season. She added that Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) along with Burundi is the top trade partners generating bulk of earnings. For example, export of maize flour to DRC, amounted to 20, 700 Metric Tonnes, earning the country $10.4 Million in 2016, compared to more than 24,800 tons which generated $ 15.Million in 2015. “Burundi is the biggest importer of our maize and sorghum flour, and you know trading with Burundi has been hectic since 2015,” said Murebwayire. Although this season, rice farmers are not as confident as they were last year, owing to bad weather prevalent in the season.