STEVIA: "NATURE'S SWEETENER"
A Potential Multi-Billion market share for the sweetner
Steviol glycoside (stevioside) is a no-calorie natural sweetener extracted from Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni, a small plant from the sunflower family with origins in Paraguay. The leaves of the stevia plant contain compounds called steviol glycosides which give the plant its sweet taste.
The extract from stevia leaves is a white powder that is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.
The extract is used by the food and beverage industry as a replacement for sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners and as a complement to other natural sweeteners to contribute to lower calorie content.
“Stevia is far more powerful than sugar in terms of sweetening power, and it’s zero calories, which is an attraction that other natural products don’t have.
Sugar is the most widely used sweetener in the world; but the volume of new low calories sweeteners is expected to rise in coming years due to the growing cases of health issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Stevia has been used in the manufacture of food and drinks for decades in regions such as the Far East and Latin America, but awareness levels were heightened significantly by its approval for use in food and beverage manufacturing.
Rwanda ‘s fertile and diverse terrain offers ideal conditions for stevia crop; with ideal elevation (1400-2000m), soil and climate conditions, Rwanda is able to achieve naturally high yields with sustainable and well distributed rainfalls throughout the year.
Stevia could be a premium product, with higher returns than most other crops cultivated by the small producer
This natural sweetener is providing Rwandan farmers with an opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing supply chain that includes several other countries from around the world. The foundation, which focuses its investments on integrating smallholder farmers and small business owners into the broader supply chain, was specifically interested in assessing the market for Stevia.
As a transplanted annual plant, stevia tends to grow well on a variety of soil types ranging from course textured sands to well drained loams. During the growing season, it seems to thrive in a temperature ranging from 15°C to 30°C provided all input resources and good management practices are incorporated.
Stevia requires cultivation practices similar to those of other transplanted crops. Stevia leaves have a long history of use as sweeteners, due to the presence of sweet crystalline glycosides called steviosides. Rwanda‘s fertile and diverse terrain offers ideal conditions for the stevia plant.
Our ideal elevation of (1,400 – 2,000m), soil and good climatic conditions, Rwanda is able to achieve naturally high yields with sustainable rainfalls throughout the year and the stevia plant is successfully being grown in Rwanda.
Contract farming and corporate farming scheme to sustain a big size of land is a possibility in Rwanda. Once planted, the stevia plant can be harvested continuously for six years with farmers harvesting six times in a year. This means your initial seedling cost will service you for six years before clearing the plantation.
Stevia farmers are taught how to reduce water consumption. Most stevia is rain fed, so it doesn’t require any great amount of irrigation from lakes and other water outlets. But even so as water is brought into the fields, we are able to show them how they can conserve water without really having it go into waste.
Rwandan farmers have responded positively to the introduction of growing the new high yielding export.
The government is looking at adding more farms to grow – and export – this natural sweetener.