Farmers in Nyagatare District have got a ready market, and maize flour needed by its residents is now available, thanks to the over Rwf1.35 billion maize processing factory which has started operation, The New Times has learnt.
The factory, with a capacity to process 30 tonnes of maize a day, is a joint venture between the district and the union of Nyagatare maize farmers’ cooperatives (UNICOPROMANYA). The district holds 62.7 per cent shares (with Rwf850 million) in the plant, while the farmers own 37.3 per cent stake (with over Rwf500 million).
UNICOPROMANYA has 27 cooperatives counting 2,500 farmers, who produce about 12,000 tonnes of maize per year, its president Chrysostom Twiringiyimana, told The New Times.
According to the Auditor General’s report for the financial year 2020-2021, the construction of this factory was completed but it was not operational for some time, because some initial equipment did not meet required standards.
When district officials on Wednesday, September 14, appeared before the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to respond to public funds mismanagement cases raised by the AG’s report, they said the factory is now operational.
Nyagatare District Mayor, Stephen Gasana said that the district had compelled the supplier to return the defective machinery in question to the manufacturer in China, which it did, and brought the required one to enable the factory to run. Apart from the delay in the operationalisation of the factory, he said, the district did not incur a cost in the process.
A partial view of Nyagatare maize processing plant building.
According to information from the district, the factory started production in June this year, while its construction began in 2020.
Gasana told The New Times that so far, it is making maize flour of two grades (grade one which is the top-quality level, and grade two which is in the second quality tier).
Twiringiyimana, president of UNICOPROMANYA, said that though Nyagatare is the biggest maize producing district in Rwanda, its residents had to buy maize flour from the neighbouring Uganda because of the lack of such a facility in the district.
Maize production in Nyagatare is estimated at between 130,000 and 140,000 tonnes per year, according to data from the district.
These data suggest that the district accounts for almost a quarter of Rwanda’s annual maize production which stood at over 482,000 tonnes, according to the Seasonal Agricultural Survey 2021 Annual Report, produced by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).
“As farmers, the factory benefited us in two ways: one, we got a ready market for our maize produce; two, the maize flour we need is close to us,” Twiringiyimana said, adding that the flour is of good quality.
Twiringiyimana said that the flour, under the brand name Akeza k’inoge, is currently available in 10kgs and 25 kgs packs in the district, but he said that they plan to also put on market packs of 5kgs in order to serve the people who cannot afford large quantities.
Gasana said that the factory was meant to support farmers and reduce the reliance on commodity import from neighbouring countries.
“Nyagatare is a major maize producing district. Sometimes farmers were given very low prices, or lacked buyers in case of bumper maize harvest. … So, the Government gave the guideline for the establishment of the factory for maize processing so that maize farmers get a ready market,” he said.
“Now, our factory makes good flour. One of the reasons to set up the factory was to get quality flour such that people do not have to look for it in other countries,” he said.