A farmer attends to her cassava plantation in Kimihurura, Gasabo District. The contribution of the agriculture sector to GDP growth dropped to 31% in the first half of this year. (Jean Mugabo)

A farmer attends to her cassava plantation in Kimihurura, Gasabo District. The contribution of the agriculture sector to GDP growth dropped to 31% in the first half of this year. (Jean Mugabo)

According to the budget, special attention will be on improving post-harvest facilities, agro-processing, hillside irrigation and water harvesting to support the country?s second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) objectives.

However, recent statistics from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda indicate that the sector?s contribution to the national GDP share declined to 31 per cent during the first quarter of 2015, from 33 per cent in December.

The sector?s growth slowed down from 5 per cent last year to only 4 per cent during the first quarter of 2015, raising concern among stakeholders. Food crops contribution to GDP increased from Rwf307 billion in first quarter of last year to Rwf312 billion this year, with export crops generating only Rwf14 billion.

Poor performance of the coffee sector export growth

Yusuf Murangwa, the director general of NISR, said the decline was mainly due to the poor performance of the country?s coffee industry, which registered a slight decline in export revenue.

?Our coffee exports did not perform as was expected, especially on the international market due to low prices,? Murangwa told Business Times.

The government is targeting to increase agriculture productivity to a projected annual sector growth of 8.5 per centby 2018, from the current 5.8 per cent.

However, the big question is whether agriculture?s contribution will rebound in the short-term.

Minister for Finance Amb Claver Gatete says the financial resource allocation to the agriculture sector next financial year is to boost productivity and also help the private sector to make reasonable investments into the sector.

?We are confident it will help increase productivity and help the country achieve its economic objectives. however, all stakeholders, especially farmers. must take advantage of the resource envelope to improve the sector?s performance.?

Leonard Rugwabiza, the chief economist at the Ministry of finance and Economic Planning, said the resources will also help reduce the cost of doing business in the sector.

?We are hopeful, because when you look at what government has allocated to the infrastructure and rural development, it?s clear it is geared towards reducing the cost of doing business and increasing productivity especially in the agricultural sector,? Rugwabiza said.

Priority areas for 2015/16

According to Innocent Musyabimana, the Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary, it is being able to work closely with all stakeholders along the value chain that will count most.

More attention will be focused on enhancing terracing, decentralization of crop intensification program, smallscale irrigation, and most importantly construction of post-harvest storage facilities. Government plans to establish these facilities in the districts of Bugesera and Nyagatare by the end of this year.

The facilities have the capacity of 10,000 tonnes and 6,000 tonnes, respectively and are expected to reduce on the post-harvest losses once established.

Soil improvement

More resources will specifically be allocated toward liming of the acidic soils in the districts of Nyamagabe, Nyarugungu and Karongi. This is geared towards ensuring farmers can maximize productivity according to Musyabimana

?Being able to support small irrigation schemes, ensuring distribution of fertilisers is done and other inputs are done right on time but also encouraging farmers to work through cooperatives and farmers field schools so that they access services more easily. All this is set to make the difference and ultimately increase productivity,? said Musyabimana.

More in research

Meanwhile, according agronomists and experts, more will be focused on research and according to experts, it is through intensive research that Rwanda can be able to know exactly the kind of crops to grow in most drought prone areas.

?We also need to focus on access to credit by small famers to be able increase productivity,? said Eric Rukwaya, the sales and marketing manager, Rwanda farmers coffee company.

It is also important that we focus more on agro-processing and value-addition to make our products more competitive.

Agriculture employs over 70 per cent of the population and is a key driver of growth.

Peterson Tumwebaze, The New Times

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