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Victor Omuga on the challenges and opportunities

Rwanda: New lockdown not holding back Bella Flowers expansion plans

Now that the government has issued another lockdown in Rwanda, work is challenging again for Rwanda’s only rose farm, Bella Flowers, as some employees are not able to get to the farm. On the upside, exports are finally improving again, after a year of not being able to export almost any of their usual 85% worth of exported roses. Therefore, when things improve even further Victor Omuga, Marketing Manager at the farm, is looking forward to expanding the 45 ha farm by building another greenhouse.

Victor Omuga at the IFTF 2019 in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands 

Improved exports
From the start of the pandemic until August 2020 it was almost impossible for Bella Flowers to export, while they normally rely on export for 85% of their roses, explains Omuga. “Luckily things have finally settled this year, as other countries have been opening up again, people are getting vaccinated, and as a result exports are getting back to normal. We are not fully back to our regular amounts yet, but we are currently at around 70% exports which is a big improvement from last year.”

New COVID spike after volcanic eruption
While exports are improving, COVID-19 is still a challenge in Rwanda, as there has been a recent spike in Corona cases. “For example, about a month ago, residents of Congo had to flee their homes after a volcanic eruption, many of whom crossed the border into Rwanda. When there is a situation like that there is no time to test everyone, and it has led to a spike of COVID in Rwanda.” As a result, the Rwandan government has issued another lockdown. “This affects our internal workforce, as not everyone is able to go to work. The government has set up a lot of new restrictions and some people are forced to stay home, as they are not allowed to travel to a different province, for example.”

“New airport will improve transportation issues”
Due to COVID-19 the air freight rates have increased, making it more expensive to ship the flowers. Omuga explains: “There is currently a monopoly in Rwanda concerning air freight so we do not have any other options. As we ship a lot of flowers to The Netherlands, this is a disadvantage for us, as there is no direct flight, and we have to go through Belgium first. Compared to competitive companies in other countries who do have direct flights to The Netherlands, such as in Kenya, this leads to more transport costs and a longer amount of time to reach the end client.” Therefore, Omuga is looking forward to the new airport that is currently under construction in Rwanda, which opens next year, as it will provide them with more air freight options.

Scheduled expansion disrupted
Since last year, Bella Flowers was able to expand their 40 ha of production by another 5 ha. “We would love to expand more but it has been difficult to import the materials into the country. All of the materials for the greenhouse construction would have to come from outside of the country, but borders have been closed which makes everything take longer. As a result, it affects our scheduled expansion, but we are doing our best to continue expanding as planned as soon as possible.” In the coming years, plans are in the pipeline to grow to 60 ha.

For more information:
Bella Flowers
Victor Omuga
[email protected]