Rwanda plans to stop importing rice by 2018 as one of the strategies aimed at helping reduce the country’s trade deficit. The country’s export volumes, both exports and imports registered a decline in value as a result of a fall in international commodity prices. Overall, the country’s total exports performed poorly.
This comes after Parliament expressed concerns over increased rice imports despite the current rise in domestic production. The Agriculture Ministry has already drafted a new plan that is expected to increase production to meet all the country’s rice needs by 2018. The measure is certainly good for the country, and this should extend to other agricultural products which are imported, and yet can be produced locally to meet the local demand, and even be able to export the surplus.
However, to achieve this, more efforts have to be put in making agriculture mechanization a reality for all farmers and eventually ensuring value addition along the agriculture chain. There is no need for Rwanda to keep importing a lot of agricultural produce yet over 80% of the population is employed in the agriculture sector. It should be the other way round- the country should produce enough to satisfy the local market and even surplus for export.
What is needed is to boost agricultural production measures being implemented like availing more land to private investors who want to venture into commercial farming. Rwanda trade deficit improved 1.4 per cent to $1,761.3 million last year, from $1,787.2 million in 2014.
The government is already working on a plan to avail farmers more land of up 8,000 hectares for rice production by next year. Rice production in the country has currently increased by 23 per cent over the last five years. If these efforts are intensified the trade deficit will eventually improve.