RWANDA – The government of Rwanda has unveiled plans of setting up an integrated fruit market aimed at reducing post-harvest losses, at an estimated investment of between US$22 million and US$27.43 million (Rwf20 and Rwf25 billion).

To be constructed at Kigali Special Economic Zone in Gasabo District, the Kigali Wholesale Market will provide improved logistics planning, quality control, and storage of fruits and vegetables, reports New Times Rwanda.

The Kigali Wholesale Market will also provide new additional services including cleaning, grading, possibly drying, and cold storage aimed at increasing the shelf life of fresh produce.

In the current concept, it is estimated that the market will have a capacity of handling up to 180,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables per year, and accommodate up to 100 wholesalers.

It is expected that the ground-breaking for the market will begin early next year. The project is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).

Gérardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources notes that it is designed to act as a catalyst that will formalise Rwanda’s fresh produce sector both for local supplies and for regional exports.

“It provides an opportunity for farmers, cooperatives and rural traders to have greater market connectivity to high-value markets both within and outside Rwanda, and put in place greater price transparency and e-Commerce options, while improving standards and more reliable product quality,” Mukeshimana observed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicates that fruits and vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

According to an assessment made by Rwanda Agriculture Board, the University of Rwanda, and National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), Rwanda looses more than 40% of fresh produce between production and consumption.

Among the major factors associated with the significant losses included lack of knowledge and skills on good agricultural practices as well as inadequate appropriate materials for handling fruits and vegetables.

In addition, producers and traders are also said to be grappling with poor market access, that also significantly contributes to post harvest losses.

The Kigali Wholesale Market seeks to address these challenges by improving linkages and logistics of produce from rural areas as well as boost exports of fresh produce.