By Elias Hakizimana.
A Korean firm HEworks plans to make Rwanda silk exports to hit about $70 million and surpass revenues from coffee or tea exports after five years of investing in the sector which has been struggling to gain momentum.
Tea and coffee are Rwanda’s major agricultural commodity export earners as they generate over $130 million in total per year.
Sohn Kee Wook, Sericulture Director of HEworks Rwanda Silk Ltd based in Rwamagana, told The Inspirer that currently, silk products’ contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is still small because mulberry cultivation needs efforts and skills to grow up.
“We expect to generate about $70 million from silk exports after five years and the gain for export will be superior to the one from coffee and tea. So, that will be the contribution to the Rwanda’s GDP,” Sohn observed.
To achieve such a target, he said, the company has started venturing into mulberry cultivation, providing farmers required skills for better farming practices for the plant, and buying all the produce from farmers. Most importantly, the firm has begun investing in silk processing to export yarn or clothes to some parts of the world.
HEworks says that its investment of $10 million, will go into advancing silk farming and silk processing in Rwanda.
The project intends to benefit silk farming on 10,000 hectares, and 20,000 farmers countrywide.
Now, a small silk factory is being set up at Kigali Special Economic Zone.
The Government planned to extend mulberry cultivation from 350 hectares in 2017 to 10,000 hectares by 2023, as the sector lacked vibrancy and investment, according to information from Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Dr Sohn said that they want to ensure that farmers effectively benefit from mulberry farming so as to improve their lives.
Rwanda has National Sericulture Center based at in Gasabo District.
He said that silk business in Rwanda is very meaningful towards achieving social economic development of the country.
The mulberry cultivation in Rwanda has achieved a lot, including planting 1000 hectares in three years ago. During the last season, the company planted about 2,000 hectares.
The company produces cocoons and last year they produced 15 tonnes of them. They are expecting to establish a factory that will be producing silk products for export by the end of 2018.
“Our company HEworks Rwanda Silk buy all the cocoons produced in Rwanda, now, for this moment, the Kigali special economic zone leads NAEB for construction of Silk Processing factory, it will be complete in August, and from September we can produce Silk rye to export to other countries,” said Wook.
The company purchases all the cocoons produced in Rwanda, and processing them into raw silk and silk fabrics mainly to export to the international market.
Wook pointed out that currently Sericulture is playing a vital role for job creation from the mulberry cultivation in the field to cocoon production and factory and later commercialization.
“At this moment, the company employed about 40 technicians and office workers. Almost 3,000 farmers are participating, including their families, it will be almost 20,000 are benefiting from sericulture activities to date, and we expect next three years to employ more than 150 people into these activities,” said Wook.
Awarding best mulberry farmers with cows among other prizes
During the 13 National Agriculture Exhibition at Mulindi agrishow ground in Gasabo District from June 30 to July 3, 2008, HEworks Rwanda Silk Ltd held two kinds of competitions in various activities, including one for general participants, and dance competition.
Cocoons competition under the silk business was also held to recognise best winners who guess how many cocoons are in a sized open container, and the winner gets Rwf 300,000. The maximum prize to best winner is Rwf1,000,000.
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