Farmers have requested the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) to launch a crackdown on middlemen and dealers in agricultural produce who use outdated weighing scales.
The New Times spoke to various crop farmers across the country and found that substandard scales dominate the market.
“We have a very big problem related to losses we incur due to substandard scales used by dealers,” said Jean Marie Vianney Nteziyaremye, President of KOAGIRUGA- Irish potato farmers’ cooperative in Kabatwa sector of Nyabihu District, Western Province.
He said the traditional and substandard scales which farmers are used at different potato collection centres.
The Irish potato rich western and northern regions have over 126 potato collection centres.
The cooperative is made up of 947 farmers who produce 4,000 tonnes of potatoes per season supplied to Kigali, Kamembe and Gisenyi.
“Dealers who buy the produce for supplying to those areas cheat us by using substandard scales. For instance, a dealer loads a truck with Irish potatoes from farmers saying the produce weighs 10 tonnes but when they reach Kigali, it weighs over 11 tonnes. This means a whole tonne is stolen from farmers,” he explained.
Considering that an average of 916,000 tonnes of potatoes is produced in the country every year, farmers might have lost thousands of tonnes to dealers and middlemen.
“We have realised that dealers also manipulate the scales,” added Simeon Hashakimana, a farmer from Musanze District.
This, he said, means 20 kilogrammes can be stolen from one sack.
Currently, the farm gate price for Irish potatoes is Rwf280 per kilogramme. The retail price for the same kilogramme in Kigali is Rwf400.
“If the dealer steals one tonne or 1,000 kilogrammes from each truck they load, this translates into loss of millions,” he said.