Better seeds boost food production

Rwanda recorded a 14 percent increase in food production in the first five months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007, exceeding consumption for the first time in four years, according an agricultural production report.

"This can be attributed to the large increase in production of mainly maize and to a lesser extent wheat for cereals and cassava for roots and tubers," said the report, prepared by the Rwanda National Institute of Statistics.

Total agricultural production hit 4 million MT compared with just over 3 MT over a similar period last year, the institute, established in 2005 under the Ministry of Finance and Planning, said in its report.

The increase was attributed to the use of high-yielding seed varieties provided by the government under the Crop Intensification Project.

At least 2,000 MT of high-yielding seed varieties were distributed to farmers in various provinces, an official in the ministry of agriculture and animal resources, who declined to be named, told IRIN. "Improved seeds have propelled food crop production recovery," he said.

Over the same period, the report said, consumption in kilo-calories per person per day reached 2,176, a figure four percent above the 2,100 globally recommended daily requirement.

However, food prices remained high despite the high production, increasing by an average of 2.1 percent during the same period.

''This can be attributed to the large increase in production of mainly maize and to a lesser extent wheat for cereals and cassava for roots and tubers''

Rwanda's food production has in the past been threatened by changing weather patterns, land fragmentation due to population pressure, soil erosion as well as loss of soil fertility. The country is also yet to attain annual agricultural production to levels registered before the 1994 genocide, according to government statistics.

So far, the government is implementing interventions aimed at improving crop production, such as farmer education on crop husbandry and the timely distribution of farm inputs.

According to the agriculture ministry, Rwanda plans to transform the agricultural sector from traditional subsistence to market-driven, commercial farming to boost food crop production.

nb/aw/am