Rwanda farmers now given control of Irish potato trade

By ROBERT MBARAGA
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Rwanda’s government has listened to farmers’ grievances and handed them control of management of the Irish potato supply chain. Farmers’ co-operatives will now be in charge of the day-to-day running of potato collection centres.

The decision was reached after a series of crisis meetings between the ministries of Commerce, Agriculture and Local Government and farmers and other stakeholders.

“The private companies that were managing the collection centres were imposing unfairly low price on farmers, sometimes below the production cost and were not paying on time,” said Vincent Havugimana, a representative of farmers in Musanze.

Farmers will now be in charge of collecting their produce and sending it to wholesale markets in major urban centres. They say this will increase their profit margins.

“It is up to farmers to set up competitive co-operatives to manage these centres, and the government is ready to help them,” said the Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Munyeshyaka.

Challenges

However, analysts say this new approach will face major challenges like the lack of trade and management skills among co-operative leaders, who will have to deal with price fluctuations, ensure transportation between production areas and urban centres as well as record keeping.

Some farmers have in the past raised concern about accountability among the farmer co-operatives and called on the government to follow the new management model closely for its success.

There are currently 148 Irish potato farmer co-operatives in the country, and with the planned consolidation this number should be halved. The country has 121 Irish potato collection centres in Western and Northern provinces.




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