The cries of Irish potato farmers are over, hopefully, after an intensive brainstorming meeting held between farmers and government officials this Sunday to eliminate what the farmers saw as inconveniences in selling their yields.
At a meeting that brought together Minister of Local Government, Prof. Shyaka Anastase; Minister of Commerce, Soraya Hakuzimana; Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Geraldine Mukeshimana and other officials, on 25th of November 2018, they visited Irish potato farmers and selling points in Nyaruguru, Burera and Musanze districts, where they were welcomed by the prevailing issues in cultivating and selling of the crop.
Farmers said that they lack market for their crops.
Their yields rot in the fields because farmers are not allowed to harvest them without permission.
They complain that companies that buy their crop inflate prices fixed by the Ministry of Trade by underpaying them.
Those who supply the crop to a nearby plant Agro Processing Trust Corporation (APTC) complained that they receive their payment very late.
One of the farmers said: “The cooperative is not helping us to avoid losses. You spend the whole week waiting for payment. They prevent us from harvesting our potatoes, and they get rotten in the fields.”
Farmers also complained that the company charges them Rwf12 per kilogram which they said does not make sense.
It was agree that to only farmers’ cooperatives will the potatoes.
Minister of Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, said that one of the decisions they made was to entrust cooperatives with the power to buy the harvest and dismiss APTC.
The government will help to equip the cooperatives with capacity to run smoothly and efficiently.
Minister of Commerce, Soraya Hakuzimana and Minister of Agriculture, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, urged local government to follow up implementation of the fixed price in order to eliminate middlemen.
In order to ensure that the farmer accesses information on time, it was agreed that the prices will be displayed at selling points, announced on radio stations and in community meetings.
A new and better price will be set. At the moment, farmers don’t receive more than Rwf170 per kilo and the retail price at Rwf245.
Farmers claim the price gap is wide since there is no value added to the potatoes for the end user.
Potato price wars had created discomfort forcing government to seek a lasting solution.
Potato growing is one of the main economic activity in major districts of the norther and western province.