Rwanda – Antoine Kajangwe, Director General of Trade and Investment, has denied the existence of any illicit operators, often referred to as a mafia, within the potato industry, dispelling speculations that such actors are responsible for the recent price surges in the market.

In recent weeks, consumers have voiced concerns over significant price hikes in Irish potatoes.

According to the latest market survey conducted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Minicom), Kinigi grade 2 potatoes were priced at RWF1,200 (USD 1) per kilogram in Kigali and RWF785 (USD 0.65) in the Northern Province.

“With the rising costs of wheat, maize, and fertilizer, coupled with reduced supplies, families tend to seek alternative food options, with potatoes being one of them. This surge in demand has led to the observed price increases,” Kajangwe explained.

In essence, he emphasized that multiple factors contribute to the escalating potato prices. These factors include diminished domestic supply due to poor crop yields and increased demand caused by reduced imports of other commodities.

Addressing the rumors surrounding the alleged involvement of a potato pricing mafia, Kajangwe refuted such claims, asserting that the ministry closely monitors the value chain, and no such entity exists.

“We maintain a well-monitored supply value chain, particularly for potatoes. Numerous potato farmers aggregate their produce at the cooperative level, where it is subsequently sold to potato collection centers, facilitating more efficient trade,” he said. “From there, wholesalers purchase the potatoes and distribute them to markets in Kigali and across the country.”

According to Agriterra, the Irish potato is one of the most important crops in Rwanda and is included in the government’s Crop Intensification Program (CIP) as one of the six priority crops.

In their recent article, it was reported that Rwanda is ranked as the 6th largest producer of potatoes in the region. This is a significant achievement considering the country’s relatively small land size.

Rwanda increased its Irish potato production from 2,240,000 tons per year in 2013 to 6,000,000 tons per year in 2019. The country accomplished this by expanding the production area from 130,000 hectares in 2010 to 200,000 hectares, and by increasing yields, outlines the report.

Although the Irish potato is a profitable crop, states the report, farmers do not invest in high quality seeds, either due to the lack of working capital or due to the lack of access to quality seeds.

Currently, the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is involved in both the production and quality control of seed potatoes.

However, most stakeholders agree that the new seed law should separate these two roles and encourage active participation of the private sector in certified seed production.