The growing appetite for Rwandan vegetables abroad is pressing local farmers to transit from subsistence to commercial farming to meet the growing demand.

Since 2011, vegetables have boosted the country’s exports value by $20M with an average of 7% growth every year. In 2011, Rwanda earned $4M, increasing to $5M and $6M in 2012 and 2013 respectively, then dropping to $5M in 2014 due to reduced productivity.

Emmanuel Hategeka, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry told KTPress there is a huge demand for Rwandan vegetables, fruits and flowers, around the world due to their quality.

All fruits are organic and grown on fertile volcanic soils under tropical weathers conditions, ideal for quality yields, but majority of Rwandan farmers grow the fruits and vegetables at a subsistence level.

Rwanda is seeking more investors to increase volumes. Two potential investors from Mauritius and Kenya have expressed interest in vegetable and fruit growing and should begin exporting late this year.

Some of the major vegetables and fruits grown in Rwanda include onions, cabbage, tomatoes, baby peas, avocados, carrots, passion fruits, pineapples and fresh maize.

Most of them are exported to the DRC, but there are other bigger markets such as UK, Belgium, Netherlands and France. Other export destinations include;Burundi and Uganda.

During vegetables and fruits exports peak in 2013, Hategeka said, Rwanda was experiencing both informal and formal cross border trade within regional markets.

Meanwhile, as the effort to increase volumes of vegetables and fruits, there is also an opportunity for investing in cold chain storage facilities from farm gate to the market.

Currently Rwanda has one cold facility, at the Kigali International airport.

There is an urgent need to invest in cold chain facilities to ensure vegetables and fruits don’t lose the required standards, especially at the international market.

However, Dieudonne Musafiri, an Imports Manager at Akagera Business Group, says, “Cold chain refrigerated trucks are expensive, but it is a lucrative business because there is high demand for them. There wouldn’t be any losses incurred.”

Despite the lack of enough cold storage facilities, high transport costs to international markets is another major obstacle facing the sector.

For example exporting one kilogram of vegetables to Europe costs $2.5. The trade ministry says its is helping exporters to negotiate for at least $1 per kilogram.