Rwanda Standards Board in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources have announced that fresh university graduates trained in standardization and industrial development will soon be deployed to support in improving quality and standards of foods and beverage processed by Small and Medium Enterprises.
The new measures, officials say are founded on the fact that 70 per cent of industries in Rwanda are agro-processing which means there is need to produce quality foods to ensure they are safe for people’s health.
The assessment which carried out by the National Industrial Research Agency (NIRDA) between July last year and February 2018 also indicated that 60 per cent of industrial foods from agro-processing industries on the local market are not certified for safety and quality because they are not aware of hazards control system.
According to Raymond Murenzi, the Director General of Rwanda Standards Board, by June this year, at least 50 trained university graduates in food processing will be deployed to various small and start-up factories across the country.
The initiative, he said, is under the three-year ‘Zamukana Ubuziranenge’ program that will partner with Small and Medium Enterprises in attaining standards.
“Besides their excellent skills from university, we have designed special courses to also train them on standards and quality in agro-processing based on what the board seeks in term of quality of processed foods. Those skills will help small and medium industries that are not even aware of what it requires to meet quality and standards,” he said.
He added that the move is also part of job creation for university graduates by enabling them to improve their potential skills through practice.
Murenzi said for SMES to pass the standards mark, they need to know about the standardization process and requirements.
“We are in the process of developing industries’ capacity and innovation in terms of ensuring standards and quality. For instance today, we have 25 banana wine processing factories that have been certified while others are in the process. We have taken measures to crack down on any substandard food and beverage products that have not complied with what we recommended,” he said.
He added that very soon none of the food and beverage processing industries will be allowed to operate without an expert in charge of quality assurance in the industry.
“Such expert in charge of quality assurance in a food processing enterprise will be accountable for any substandard product they produce,” he said.
Aziz Mwiseneza, an official in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the same initiative started when 800 university graduates were deployed to improve agriculture productivity for foods like rice, Irish potatoes, cassava, vegetables and others.
“Some are retained by farmers’ cooperative to continue supporting them which also helps in job creation,” he said.
Help in adopting affordable technologies
Dr George Nyombaire, the head of research and development co-ordination at National Industrial Research and Development (NIRDA) said the initiative will ensure small and medium industries become competitive through good and affordable technologies that play a big role in improving the quality of processed foods.
“These SMES have innovations and new products and therefore we have to partner with our research scientists to develop them for better achievement. Very soon the agency will develop a software to store technologies from around the world so as to be exploited by Rwandan innovators and small enterprises in food processing,’” he said.
Dieudonné Twahirwa, a young entrepreneur and member of Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum, said there were 4,300 youth in the forum who could transform agriculture sector and agro-processing.
“The support from trained university graduates complements SMES, most of whom do not have enough knowledge about standards. We need such opportunities of capacity building, technologies and access to finance,” he said.