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Rwanda: Food Processors Eye Global MarketsTuesday, December 30, 2014 > 08:24:00
Local food producers have turned to submitting to stringent global tests to enhance their standing and acquire approval for international markets.
The certification programme, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), is a set of preventive analyses to prevent bacteria from getting into the food chain at every point from harvests to packaging and is the most widely used food safety standard globally.
The certification is part of a programme overseen by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) to help the local food industry eat into the country's 4-1 trade deficit with the rest of the world by increasing exports to the East African Community (EAC) and beyond.
Commenting on the impact of the development, Dative Giramahoro of Sosoma Ltd, a local serial processing firm, said the certification has increased consumer confidence in their products which can now retail in regional stores.
"It made us look at our entire processing chain and make improvements in handling, cleaning our equipment, pest control and other steps," Giramahoro said.
"Now we have taken measures to ensure that every stage of our process meets the highest standards. It was a new way of thinking."
The HACCP programme, so far extended to 20 Rwandan companies as a pilot project, is part of a complex programme around standards, supported by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), to build trust in local and regional consumers and get approval for export.
As the EAC moves closer to integration, standards become more crucial for manufacturers of all varieties to get their goods accepted in other markets in the same way common markets, such as the European Union, have developed common standards.
In the 2012/13 financial year, 74 standards were harmonised in the EAC, of which 41 were gazetted as EAC standards. These included the vital sector of edible oils, which alone accounts for trade worth $2 billion every year.
According to Anna Uwiganza, the head of Kinazi Cassava Plant, the producers are optimistic that the certification will be their gateway to markets beyond the region.
"There is no doubt that the certification we have received will help us increase exports and we see the European Union (EU) and Canada as primary targets, even the US," she said.
TMEA is working across the EAC to reinforce standards so that companies and consumers know that what they are paying for is what the label says.
All across the five-nation bloc, TMEA is helping national partners harmonise the standards of the most commonly traded goods in the region so they can cross borders unconstrained by questions on authenticity or reliability.
Experts have said that building the local standards capacity will also help the local industry cut costs as many previously had to send their products overseas or to a neighbouring country for testing adding to already high overheads before the goods have even been sold.
TMEA is also helping provide laboratory testing equipment and training on how to use them and in conducting awareness-raising for exporters to recognise the selling point of the certification stamps.