Rwanda Wants To Break Into E. Africa Horticulture Sector, But It’s Not Easy

Rwanda Wants To Break Into E. Africa Horticulture Sector, But It’s Not Easy

Rwanda wants to break into East Africa’s high-growth horticulture sector, but competition is fierce and challenges such as transportation scare away investors despite government incentives, according to TheAfricaReport.

A public-private partnership between the Rwandan government and Kenya’s Shalimar Flowers could be a model for demonstrating Rwanda horticulture and floriculture potential, the report said. It’s a chance to build up an industry that is the livelihood of many small-scale farmers.

In September 2014, Shalimar bought a 25-percent stake in the Rwandan government-owned Gishari Flower Park located 60 kilkometers east of Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

The Rwandan government invested $8 million in the 35-hectare (86.5-acre) project.

“Shalimar is bringing in capital and expertise,” said Magnifique Ndambe Nzaramba, director general of Rwanda’s National Agricultural Export Development Board.

Gishari will initially produce 1 million stems but its full potential is 3 million per year, he said.

The project has national importance, said Clare Akamanzi, chief operating officer of the Rwanda Development Board. “We are looking at developing the entire value chain for the horticulture and floriculture industry, from breeding, regulations, farming support, cold chain, skills and cargo.

Rwanda produced 1.4 million stems of summer flowers on 15 hectares (37 acres) scattered across high-altitude areas in Northern, Western and Southern Rwanda in 2013, according to government statistics.

Other flower-growing projects such as Rwanda Flora have failed in the country. Problems facing the industry include lack of the necessary expertise, infrastructure and funds.

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Agribusiness entrepreneur Beatrice Gakuba bought Rwanda Flora in 2004, exporting four-to-five tons of flowers a week to Europe before the company closed in 2008. The company cited poor flight connectivity as one of the reasons.

The floriculture business can be lucrative but risky because it needs a steady cash flow.

François Nsenga is local floriculture consultant helping investors to venture into colored lily production. It took him  five days to get the 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of lilies he bought from smallholder farmers to the auction market. Only half of the consignment of flowers passed a quality test, he told TheAfricaReport.

Transport is a major obstacle to development of Rwanda’s floriculture industry development.

Poor flight connectivity affects the quality of flowers and adds to production costs while shipments wait at Kigali International Airport’s cold storage room.

Kigali airport passenger and freight traffic isn’t high enough, forcing airlines to go to larger airports in the region before leaving for other continents.

Low flower volumes make exporting less competitive.

“To reach the competitive flower market with fresh flowers, Rwanda needs direct cargo flights to Europe,” Nsenga said.

These constraints may scare away investors even as the government dangles incentives, including serviced land in a country where land is scarce, according to TheAfricaReport.