Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) has suspended operations of more than 150 factories making banana beer and wines over failure to meet the minimum health standards.
Only factories with ‘S Mark’ certificate are currently allowed to continue their businesses as usual.
The suspension follows a comprehensive inspection conducted in June by a team of RSB staff across the country, which found hygiene standards at many factories wanting.
According to the findings, there are over 180 factories that need standards certificate, while 20 have basic standards, meaning they are positioned to get the S Mark certificate.
It shows that only two factories have S Mark certificate, and can be facilitated to take their products on international market.
Only factories with basic standards are eligible to apply for the standards certificate.
The benchmarks include basic hygiene of the factory infrastructure, water and materials, electricity, machines, enough staff, including certified staff among others.
The majority of the inspected factories were found to have unhygienic premises with no appropriate machines, among other things.
The assessment also found that their products were being packed in plastic or glass bottles of other brands.
Raymond Murenzi, the RSB director-general, told The New Times last week that RSB will not tolerate whoever makes products that can endanger people’s health.
“What we need are good products on the market produced under required standards, consumer protection remains our priority,” he said.
He said the S Mark certification is aimed at ensuring public health safety, building trust among consumers, considered a strong marketing tool locally and internationally.
“No one can drink products potentially risky to their health. They [manufacturers] need do their best to ensure product quality that matches the required standards,” he added.
The S Mark certificate has a validity of two years, with holders required to ask for renewal two months before expiration.
A factory can lose its certificate if it doesn’t maintain standards.
Bernadette Mukankwaya runs a banana beer factory in Kicukiro District certified with the S Mark on her brand since 2016.
She said: “I produce traditional banana beer from banana juice and sorghum floor. There is stiff competition from those who make cheap beer with poor standards.”
Murenzi warned investors in banana beer business to be careful about the packaging and transportation processes of their products, insisting that only glass-made bottles are recommended for packaging.
However, Dr Emmanuel Rekeraho, of Eden Business Ltd, which makes drinks out of ginger, said getting glass bottles is a serious challenge affecting their business since there is no local investor making them.
“We spend much on importing glass bottles which eats into our profits. This needs to be addressed before banning use of plastic packaging,” he said.
Tight inspection, in collaboration with local government, will continue to be conducted across the country, RSB said.