To facilitate trade, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has moved to hire a UK – based packaging company called Clifton to provide packaging services locally to the business community as competition stiffens from regional economic groupings.
Clifton is a leading manufacturer of flexible packaging materials for the Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector such as snack foods, confectionery, nuts and bakery.
In an interview with Business Times on Tuesday, Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry revealed that preliminary negotiations had been done with the firm to start offering packaging services locally.
This is expected to reduce the high costs currently incurred by the business community as they have to import packaging materials.
The move is also part of government’s efforts to counter stiff competitive arising from regional economic trade groupings such as Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Free Trade Area, which the country has been implementing since 2004.
“We don’t have any local packaging industry; the business community has to import packaging material which is expensive. In the first week of November we expect to sign a Memorandum of Understanding,” Ruvebana said adding that the lack of packaging services has also affected the quality of exports.
“We can produce for the local market but when we export these products they face stiff competition on the market,” he said.
Ruvebana also noted that the quality of packaging material available locally was still wanting as they are not very effective.
He cited an incidence where an attempt was made to export Rwanda’s traditional cuisine “isombe” to the European Market using local packaging material.
“By the time it reached Europe it was tested and found to have developed moth and declared unfit for consumption.”
According to Ruvebana, the country has largely benefited from duty-free and quota-free terms for all goods originating within their territories into fellow FTA member countries.
“Such goods are cheaper and this helps the business community which is importing,” he said, citing construction materials such as tiles and iron bars from Egypt.
While the reverse is true for the business community that exports, the Permanent Secretary mentioned that Rwanda’s exports to the region is still limited.
“Though the number of exports is not really impressive, the few that they can send out enter countries free of charge and this makes them cheaper on the local market,” he said, referring to products such as Nyirangarama products such as Agashya juice and chill pepper – Akabanga and Mutzig beer.
Ruvebana also mentioned that emphasis has been put on exporting quality products to build a reputation for Rwandan products.
Before export, products will have to be tested and inspected by the Rwanda Bureau of Standards to mitigate chances of low quality products finding their way on the market.
“We prefer to send a few products of good quality that will make a good name for the country.” Ruvebana observed.