PUBLISHED ON November 23rd, 2023

Rwanda: Inside FAO, EU, Rwanda’s Initiative to Strengthen Food Quality, Plant Health

Rwanda has made efforts to enhance its oversight of food quality and plant health, known as phytosanitary capacities. The goal is to bring these systems in line with global standards, ensuring that Rwandan products meet international requirements.

According to experts, this is due as Rwanda prepares to engage in trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), where adherence to high-quality standards is essential for successful and seamless cross-border commerce.

On Friday, November 17, insights emerged during a validation workshop of Rwanda’s food control system and phytosanitary capacity evaluation.

The event, attended by prominent figures such as Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Coumba Sow, FAO Representative in Rwanda, Dr Brian Chirombo, World Health Organization Representative, Amparo Gonzalez Diez from the delegation of the European Union to Rwanda, as well as representatives from food standards institutions and producers, shed light on Rwanda’s commitment to enhancing its food control infrastructure.

During a press interview, Ngabitsinze emphasised the substantial costs associated with adhering to international standards. He outlined the need for funding to establish infrastructure and labs equipped to meet these standards, estimating a requirement of over Rwf1.5 billion for the labs and a total project implementation cost exceeding Rwf4 billion.

“This ongoing project involves collaboration with key entities such as FAO, EU, and TradeMark East Africa. The initiative aims to foster collaboration between grassroots actors, including farmers, and authorities and food producers, ensuring the production of high-quality goods,” he said.

Ngabitsinze expressed the urgency of preparing Rwanda for trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area, emphasising collaboration with other African nations to guarantee the quality of food products they export.

“Rwanda is dedicated to partnering with various stakeholders to implement the outlined strategic actions effectively,” Ngabitsinze added.

Sow highlighted that the project was designed by FAO and the European Union to assist African nations in evaluating and assessing their food safety, control, and phytosanitary systems.

“Rwanda, actively participating in the initiative, formed an interdisciplinary team from various national institutions to identify strengths and gaps in the existing system. This morning’s assessment indicated Rwanda’s exemplary status,” she said.

She emphasised that the identified areas for improvement are within the capacity of institutions to address swiftly. Rwanda’s success, compared to other countries, positions it as a positive example in this endeavour.

“The project integrates two advanced tools; the FAO/WHO Food Control System Assessment Tool and the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation (PCE) tool. These tools empower countries to evaluate and enhance their food control systems and phytosanitary capacities, contributing to adhering to international standards, fostering improved dialogue, and promoting safe trade and food security in the region,” Sow said.

Maurice Tuyisenge, from Africa Improved Foods, emphasised their commitment to quality in baby and family food production. The company, known for products like Nootri All Family, believes in meeting high standards for raw materials, especially since they export these products.

“Through training farmers and addressing challenges in crop yields, we’ve significantly reduced the rejection rate of produce to 95 per cent, and we aim to reach 100 per cent acceptance soon,” Tuyisenge said.

Jean Claude Bahati, Food Safety Manager at Inyange Industries Ltd, echoed similar sentiments, emphasising the positive impact on exports.

“Inyange’s products, present in regional, continental, and global markets, benefit from this initiative, further enhancing our brand image,” he said.

Bahati emphasised their commitment to quality through a dedicated department for fruit and dairy farmers, ensuring constant awareness of standards. Rigorous cross-checks and testing procedures are implemented to guarantee the release of high-quality food products.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.