Rwanda loses and wastes 40% of total food production each year, at the same time as 19% of the population doesn’t have enough to eat, says a World Bank report.
The “Food Smart Country Diagnostic” report released last week looked at a selection of three crops which are widely consumed in the country. They are tomatoes, rice and maize.
Losses and waste are said to occur at different locations along the value chain between the three commodities selected.
“Tomatoes have the largest total loss rate of 49%, followed by maize and rice, with 25% and 18%, respectively,” says the study.
Demand for tomatoes is rising due to economic growth and increased urbanization. Study shows that 19 out of 30 districts in the country grow tomatoes, and eight of them grow an amount higher than 1,000 tons per year.
Tomato production is mostly for the domestic market, with 20 to 30% used for home consumption and 70 to 80% sold domestically.
The reason so much tomatoes are lost is because “there is no cold storage available at the farm or market stages of the value chain, which causes the pulp temperature to be anywhere from 7-15˚C higher than the ideal temperature at the farm, wholesale market, and retail market stages”.
This translates into a shelf life of 1-3 days instead of 1-3 weeks under ideal temperature conditions.
As for maize, the government’s Crop Intensification Program (CIP) has led to over 65% of farmers now growing maize, both for household consumption and commercial sale to traders and millers.
Despite this boost in production, domestic supplies of maize have been insufficient in terms of quality standards required by the major buyers.
“This is driven largely by high moisture content and impurities, which contributes to aflatoxin contamination and therefore high levels of losses,” say the researchers of the World Bank study.
When ut comes to rice, it is considered a priority crop for food security and poverty reduction in the country. The government has set rice production as a priority, especially in the marshlands.
“Losses in rice are largely due to inadequate handling and storage, resulting in the presence of aflatoxins,” says the study.
In the past two months alone, reports emerged of more than 265 tons of rice had gotten spoiled and was rotting from a warehouse in Rusizi district. The region is the biggest producer of rice.
At the same time, in Ngoma district, eastern Rwanda, it also emerged that 705 tons of rice was laying unsold in farmers’ stores because they didn’t have anywhere to sell it.
As this report shows such a vast amount of food lost and wasted, the same World Bank report says 19% of Rwandan households are food insecure – with most of them located in the western and northern parts of the country.
Another key aspect about Rwanda is that over 68% of its territory is already farmed – leaving very little room for current nature of agriculture. The country has to find new ways of growing its good.