RWANDA – The Rwandese Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) have adjusted maize farm gate prices for agriculture season A of 2024, formulating capped prices based on the moisture content.

The farming season A of 2024 runs from September 2023 through February 2024.

In January, the MINICOM had stipulated farm gate prices, with a kilogram of maize grain (threshed) set at a minimum of Rwf400 (US$0.31) from a farmer, while that of maize grains still on cobs at Rwf311 (US$0.24) minimum.

However, an amended communication issued by MINICOM in February made adjustments based on maize dryness levels, as determined by water or moisture content.

Producers, manufacturers, and traders are known to lose up to about 30% of their maize during post-harvest handling and processing. Part of the cause of this massive loss is due to moisture, according to GrainPro.

Moisture content in maize plays a pivotal role in determining both food safety and quality, acting as a critical factor in the prevention of mycotoxin contamination. High moisture levels can create an ideal environment for the growth of fungi, leading to the production of mycotoxins, which pose significant health risks to consumers.

Conversely, adequately controlled moisture levels help in preserving maize’s nutritional quality, extending its shelf life, and ensuring it remains safe for consumption. Therefore, managing moisture content is essential not only for preventing the growth of harmful pathogens but also for maintaining the grain’s integrity, ensuring that maize-based products meet the highest standards of food safety and quality.

The prices set in January were based on resolutions of an earlier meeting that convened officials from MINICOM, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda Agriculture Board, farmers’ representatives, maize processing factories, and major maize buying firms.

At that time, the main factors that were considered while settling for prices were the investments made by a farmer and the profit they could get from their produce. However, MINICOM has attributed the revision to drying disruptions caused by unexpected rainfall.

Under the revised pricing, maize (threshed grains) with moisture content ranging from 13.5 per cent to 18 per cent is priced at Rwf400 per kilogram (US$0.31), while maize with moisture content between 19 per cent and 25 per cent is priced at Rwf350 (US$0.27) per kilogram.

Similarly, for maize cobs, the minimum purchase price ranges from Rwf311 (US$0.24) to Rwf260 (US$0.20) per kilogram, depending on the moisture content levels.

MINICOM stated that these adjustments were formulated following a meeting held on February 19, which involved representatives from MINICOM, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), and maize buyers. The aim was to assess maize trade conditions and enforce the previously set farm gate prices.

Evariste Tugirinshuti, the President of the National Federation of Maize Farmers’ Cooperatives, highlighted the unexpected nature of the rains during a typically dry period from mid-January to March, which hindered maize drying and led to exploitation by middlemen.

Middlemen profited from that situation to exploit them. So, we decided that instead of having a situation where farmers continue being exploited, the government and maize buyers can consider the costs it would take to dry maize to the desired dryness level, and then a corresponding amount be deducted from the price given to farmers,” he said.

According to him, farmers are not negatively affected by this move, pointing out that the price adjustments are relative to expenses in drying maize to different levels.

In response, Cassien Karangwa, Director of Domestic Trade at MINICOM, emphasized that the amendments were designed to support  farmers who struggled to dry maize due to the rainy season, ensuring that costs incurred by buyers for drying were accounted for in the pricing structure.

Karangwa reassured that farmers would not suffer losses due to these adjustments, as the prices were formulated to include a 15 per cent profit margin per kilogram for farmers.

The Seasonal Agricultural Survey 2023 by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) reported a production of over 508,000 tonnes of maize in 2023, indicating an almost 11 per cent increase compared to 2022.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.