At the three-day eDiary Conference and Exhibition held March 21-23, at Serena Kigali Hotel, Dr. Mark Bagabe the Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) urged that value addition and quality standards complement each other and are both prerequisites in ensuring growth of the Diary Sector in Rwanda.
It was the 2nd eDiary Conference and Exhibition, after the first one back in 2010 in Nairobi Kenya, aimed at establishing a long-term strategic partnership and develop ICT for Agribusiness knowledge transfer between Kenya, Rwanda, India, Israel and USA.
The eDiary is a regional (EAC) project aimed at attracting, retaining and motivating ICT innovators interested in entrepreneurial aspects of the e-Diary subsector or in new ICT opportunities in Agribusiness.
In the spirit of exchanging experiences and expertise on ensuring a successful eDiary project in Rwanda, various partners had their turns share information with the rest of the participants. Dr Mark had his slot on Day two to share his perspectives about “the role of quality standards as the apex of value addition in the diary sector”.
He observed that no doubt value addition in the diary subsector will ensure success of the eDiary project but only if quality standards are upheld. “Quality standardization is a prerequisite to consumer satisfaction and competitiveness in the market”, Mr. Bagabe noted.
The biggest challenge facing the diary subsector is lack of market information because there’s minimal (market) research to establish actual consumer requirements. As Dr Mark observed, “customer preference is often determined by price not quality standards”. He said inadequate quality standards is a Non Tariff Barrier (NTB) in accessing international developed markets.
Traceability in the Diary Industry remains a big challenge to RBS, Dr Mark admitted, adding that despite of the availability of hi-tech specialized laboratories for testing diary products (at RBS) and availability of a number of off-shelf of technologies, the diary sector in Rwanda has not satisfactorily embraced Quality Standards. The issue of quality standards goes beyond mere Diary products to; quality of animals and feeding, distribution methods, processing and storage control, safety and quality testing, packaging etc.
Dr Mark called for empowerment of policy framework to support the implementation and enforcement of processing and quality standards requirements in the diary sector. “the dilemma in Rwanda today is that majority of the people prefer consuming unprocessed (raw) milk to processed one—which discourages value addition because there is lesser demand for processed milk”.
Whereas a litre of processed or pasteurized milk goes for Rfw600 (about US$1), a litre of unprocessed milk goes for half price. The Standards Boss urged farmers to organize into groups for easier traceability, uptake of technology quality standards, among other benefits.