Rwanda should respond to demand in botanical products
A three day workshop on plant products was held from October 24 to create a platform for researchers, business people and students to exchange scientific knowledge, experience and experimental expertise on plant products.
The workshop, which was organized by Agribussiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (Asnap), Ikirezi Natural Products and World Relief Rwanda, had the theme, Making quality matter. It was attended by researchers and manufactures from Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, the United States of America and Rwanda, as well as students of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the State Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Draphose Gahakwa, said that there is an increase in demand for botanical raw materials on the world market, but unfortunately African countries are not taking advantage of the growing market which increases annually by 15%-25%.
Africa contributes less than 1% to the total natural plant market, which earns a total of US$ 120 billion annually. Natural plant supplements also make up 25% of prescription drugs, while herbal dieting supplements have the fastest growing market with 30% growth per year. Botanical drugs also earn up to US$ 6 billion per year in Europe alone.
Dr. Gahakwa said that Rwanda has a competitive advantage, since the climatic and soil conditions are favorable, and the existing exporting opportunities and cheap labor also cut down on the cost of production in Rwanda. She added that the Ministry would continue to work with local farmers to improve on the quality of their products and therefore diversify the countries exports.
Rwanda today exports geranium – a plant used for making perfumes, soap, insecticide, and in aroma therapy – to South Africa, explained the Managing Director of Ikirezi Natural Products, Dr. Nicholas Hitimana.
“Although production is still on a small scale with only 10 hectares of geranium being grown, we plan to increase production to 20 hectares by next year,” he said.
Hitimana explained that geranium is any easy plant to grow, requiring only watering and mulching. “We at Ikirezi are already working with farmers in Nyamata and Gasabo, who we train and support, and we process their raw materials which we market.”
Hitimana also said that although market prices sometimes fluctuate, growing geranium is profitable with a kilogram being sold at 30 francs. “If farmers carry out proper farming practices, a total of over 30 tones of geranium can be harvested annually, making sales of 900,000 francs.”
He encouraged farmers to grow good quality plants as a way of insuring stable markets and prices.