The prices of the three most commonly used fertilisers in Rwanda have increased, implying that farmers have to spend more to get farm produce.
According to new prices, a kilogramme of diammonium phosphate (DAP) is now Rwf633, up from Rwf480. NPK (17: 17: 17) increased from Rwf620 to Rwf713 while urea, which has been costing Rwf462 is now Rwf564.
The new prices are containing in the ministerial instructions regarding the distribution of inputs, including fertilisers and quality seeds, which were issued by the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources on July 1,
These new prices are applicable in agriculture season A of 2022 which started on July 1, 2021, and ends on December 31, 2021.
In the current agriculture season, crops that are covered by the government fertiliser subsidies are maize, beans, wheat, soya, rice, Irish potatoes, cassava, banana, vegetables and fruits.
Farmers have been requested to use Smart Nkunganire System – a technology-based agricultural input subsidy system – whereby they will indicate the amount of seeds and fertilisers subsidised by the government that they need [then order them through the system].
Jean-Paul Munyakazi, a farmer, and Legal Representative of Imbaraga Farmers’ Organization said that even the previous fertiliser prices were high compared to the financial means of many farmers.
The government, he added, has attributed the rise in fertiliser prices to turbulences in the currency market where the Rwandan franc has depreciated against foreign currencies, especially the US dollar.
“The problem is that though the dollar’s value has been rising, as farmers, we sell our farm produce in the Rwandan franc [whose value has declined]. The fertiliser prices follow the dollar’s upward trends, while prices for our produce do not,” he said.
In addition, he said, the State subsidies on fertilisers have reduced.
With agriculture being one of the major pillars of the country’s economy, his wish is that the Government should increase its financial support so that the fertiliser prices are affordable to farmers.
“Smallholder farmers will not be able to afford the new fertiliser prices,” he said, expressing concern that the use of fertilisers in the country has been lower compared to the level that was required, even with the previous prices that were relatively lower.
Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of the National Federation of Maize Farmers’ Cooperatives told The New Times that the new prices are high and a challenge to farmers especially during this Covid-19 period when farmers’ income was negatively affected.
For instance, he said that, overall, the lowest price given to a farmer for a kilogramme of maize has been Rwf150 this year, down from Rwf220 last year.
“It is clear that the use of fertilisers will go down this year (farming season),” he said, referring to the increased prices.
Bucagu Charles, the Deputy Director General of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said that several factors are behind the increase in fertiliser prices.
He cited higher increase of prices of agricultural inputs worldwide, increase of dollar value against local currency, and the effects of Covid-19 worldwide which have severely affected trade.
Meanwhile, during the budget hearing in May this year, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources as well as its affiliated agencies expressed concern to Members of Parliament that fertiliser and lime programme was among major agriculture projects facing funding shortages.
In 2021/2022, the Ministry’s plan was to distribute 5,294 tonnes of subsidised quality seeds, 50,924 tonnes of fertilisers and 15,211 tonnes of lime to farmers.
With that, average fertiliser use would reach 60 kilogrammes per hectare this fiscal year from around 45 kilogrammes per hectare in 2020, according to data from RAB.
But this fertiliser use activity was allocated Rwf14 billion against Rwf23.1 billion that was required.
With very limited funding, the ministry said that the target to increase farm productivity by 8 per cent for each selected crop will not be possible, and the Covid-19 impact will continue to weaken the country’s economy because of low agricultural production.