The Public Accounts Committee has put the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) on the spot over macadamia seedlings that were provided to farmers for cultivation but they did not grow.
The Committee indicated that over 7,900 macadamia seedlings that were planted, only 5,000 grew healthy, implying that about 30 percent did not grow – they dried.
In the districts of Ngoma, and Rwamagana, only 40 percent of the seedlings that were provided to farmers managed to grow.
The revelation was made on Monday, September 14, 2020 during a public hearing held virtually in which NAEB officials were giving explanations on the mismanagement cases identified while PAC was scrutinising the Auditor General’s report of the year 2018/2019.
Macadamia crops are lucrative and are nicknamed golden nuts as such nuts are much sought after globally. One macadamia seedling currently costs Rwf5,000, meaning that smallholder farmers cannot afford many of its seedlings if they are the ones to cover the cost.
The farm gate price of a kilogramme of raw macadamia nuts rose from Rwf800 in 2018 to Rwf2,000 in 2019, increasing the prospects of higher incomes for farmers.
In addition, PAC exposed that there is also no agreement between NAEB and farmers on taking care of planted macadamia seedlings, or that between NAEB and a supplier (contractor) on replacing dried seedlings.
“We want to know the underlying factors for such a discrepancy in macadamia cultivation; and that those who are responsible for it be held accountable,” MP Marie Alice Kayumba Uwera said.
NAEB’s Chief Finance Officer, André Ndikumana said that the internal assessment made by NAEB to find out why the seedlings did not grow at 100 percent indicated that the weakness was in monitoring the crops.
“Such seedlings require growth monitoring from planting especially because there are farmers who do not have enough irrigation means. There is a need to follow up to show them how they can properly tend to them in order to be productive,” he said.
He said that the monitoring exercise is a challenge given that NAEB has limited staff – only one officer in charge of fruits. He pointed out that NAEB has realised that working with other entities in charge of fruit crops promotion can yield good results, and it has committed to do that.
Meanwhile, NAEB also grapples with recovering more than Rwf830 million outstanding loans to farmers, 80 percent of which was provided to tea cooperatives.
PAC tasked NAEB to expedite the recovery of such loans.