Monday, 26 January 2015

Canadian firm to open stevia plant in Rwanda

A Canadian-based Company, Stevia Life, is set to establish a Stevia processing plant in Rwanda. Stevia is a sweetener that comes from a plant and has no calories.

Plans are in advanced stages, according to Bruce Irambona, the General Manager of Stevia Life Rwanda. Irambona said the proposed site for the plant will be either Rulindo District or Kigali Special Economic Zone. The plant is expected to produce 500 tonnes of stevia per year. Irambona said a kilogramme will cost $150.

Stevia is a green, leafy plant originating from South America, mainly Paraguay, used as a natural sweetener in drinks and meals.

By November 2011, Rwanda’s stevia production per hectare was 1.3 tonnes and now it has reached 2 tonnes per hectare every three months under the pilot projects in Ngoma Sector, Rulindo District, Northern Province. The pilot project now covers 42 hectares and employs 250 people. In 2014, 100 tonnes of Stevia were exported to China. The price of dry stevia leaves in Rwanda is $1.5 to $2.6 per kilogramme, depending on the quality and quantity.

Jean Marie Vianney Munyaneza, Agriculture Diversification and Product Development Division Manager at the National Agriculture Export Board (Naeb), said for the stevia processing plant to be set up in Rwanda, there was need to increase the acreage to at least 1,000 hectares. SteviaLife has committed to provide all required inputs, including seedlings, fertilisers and nursery breeding, and Naeb will facilitate implementation.

According to Naeb and SteveLife figures, a stevia farmer can harvest about six tonnes per hectare per year. Stevia plant grows better in areas with reliable rainfall of 1,800 mm per year and alternate sunny and rainy seasons as well as at an altitude of 1,650 and above.

Irambona said trials from 2013 showed that the quality of Rwanda grown stevia was high as it has 14 per cent of rebaudioside A at the very start while some countries have 12 per cent, the minimum percentage. The countries of origin of the plant, like Paraguay, can contain up to 17-18 per cent., a site that helps people make informed decisions about their health, states that Stevia reduces elevated blood pressure, a major risk factor for many serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

As people become more conscious about the use of ordinary sugar, the use of stevia is gaining momentum. Irambona said more people will embrace Stevia within three years.


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