Rwanda eyes higher-value exports to China

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/10 22:23:41

Aims to boost food sales through e-commerce channels


A delegation of government officials from Rwanda watches how local workers process mountain walnuts in Bainiu village in Lin'an, East China's Zhejiang Province, one of the best-known e-commerce villages in China. Photo: Xie Jun/GT





Rwanda is looking to increase agricultural cooperation with China by expanding its food exports beyond well-known items such as coffee, a government official from Rwanda told the Global Times.

"We're looking at quite a number of things ... such as dried fruit, beef, crayfish, fresh chili, avocados and so forth... the opportunities are really going to emerge," said William George Kayonga, CEO of the National Agricultural Export Development Board in Rwanda.

He made the comments during a four-day tour by a delegation of Rwandan officials to the headquarters of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, to learn about the digital economy, including the experience of using the internet to boost agricultural product sales. 

The two countries are moving closer in terms of agricultural cooperation as China strives to expand its food sources beyond traditional suppliers such as the US and Brazil to cope with an unstable trading environment.

China is also finding it harder to rely on its own farms because of higher labor and transportation costs, said Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultancy.

For Rwanda, there's no reason to sit by and see others make good money in the Chinese market. "We visited a local Hema store and saw that most of the imported avocados sold there are from Mexico. We looked at the price and we think that we can sell avocados here with better quality and better prices," said Kayonga.

He said there's already a lot of agricultural cooperation between China and Rwanda, with Rwanda exporting products like moringa seeds and coffee to China. The two countries are also eyeing further cooperation by means of the cutting-edge e-commerce culture in China. 

Rwanda has been selling coffee on Alibaba's Tmall.com and through its Hema stores since it participated last October in the Electronic World Trade Platform program initiated by Alibaba. The coffee has been welcomed by Chinese consumers, according to sales data provided by Alibaba. 

E-commerce has also helped Rwanda sell higher-value coffee to China. 

In the past, Rwanda only sold green coffee beans in containers to China, while via e-commerce channels like Tmall.com it sold processed roasted coffee so that most of the value has been retained, the official disclosed.

 Lieutenant General Charles Kayonga, Ambassador of Rwanda to China, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Rwanda is looking to export products of more value to China. 

"Rwanda should export products with more value to China ...Otherwise there's too much waste [in the primary goods that we export to China]," he said.  

China imported $37.8 million worth of goods from Rwanda in the first 11 months in 2018, up 66.4 percent on a yearly basis while exporting $154 million worth of goods, up by 35.8 percent, customs figures showed in December 2018.

According to Rwandan officials, the logistics system has traditionally been a big challenge for bilateral agricultural cooperation between China and Rwanda. But the situation has improved, with direct flights from Rwanda to China set to be launched in May, Kayonga disclosed. 

"We are very encouraged by what we have seen. The opportunity is there to be explored," he noted. 

Experts noted that African countries, including Rwanda, can be excellent trading partners with China in terms of farming products. 

"Because of their lower labor costs [compared with China], vast farming land, and the good quality of their products, I think food from Africa will be popular in China, particularly in coastal areas where shipping costs are generally lower than in inland cities," Ma told the Global Times on Thursday. 



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