About 32 dairy products by some eight companies have been given the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), standardisation mark (S-Mark) after the quality assurance body gave them a clean bill of health.
RSB says that the number of S-Mark certification for milk and diary products has increased since April 2017 as a result of its decision to only allow certified diary products as per instruction concerning the sale of dairy products that are standard compliant.
The instruction was issued on April 20, 2017 by the Rwanda Standards Board.
This instruction was meant to promote Made-in-Rwanda products and particularly to enforce the ministerial order of 10/02/2016 regulating the collection, transportation, and selling of milk.
Locally produced cheese and ice-cream could not be seen on supermarket shelves because they had no standardisation mark.
Among the quality certified local products include cheese, ice-cream, yoghurt, and fermented milk, some of which are now available in supermarkets in Kigali after meeting standards requirement.
In an interview with The New Times, Antoinette Mbabazi, Division Manager of National Certification at RSB, said that among the requirements that should be fulfilled for a company or the product they make to be quality certified, is hygiene.
This, she said, takes into account various aspects including buildings in which they work from, access to and inspection of quality water used in the factory such that it cannot be the source of contamination [of dairy products].
Other requirements are equipment needed to prepare the dairy product.One such equipment is a pasteurizer.
"It is one of the challenges that we have realised because some do not have them, and even those who own them they are of different capacities," she said.
She pointed out that the processors should also have electricity because milk products require maintaining cold chain, from transport to processing stage so as to prevent the multiplication of microbes in such products.
The managing director of Ingabo Dairy Ltd in Nyabihu District, André Rwayitare, told The New Times that his company was making over 10 dairy products, including cheese, and yogurt, which were not allowed to be sold before getting the S-mark.
Currently, according to RSB, Ingabo's products that are quality certified include Strawberry Flavoured Yoghurt, Vanilla Flavoured Yoghurt, Gouda cheese, and unsalted butter.
Though his company's operations have been halted for about four months, he said, compliance was necessary.
The firm processes about 1,500 litres of cheese, and 1,000 litres of yoghurt.
Because of lack of certified dairy products, local supermarkets have been using imported dairy products, especially cheese and ice-cream.
Paul Mutunga the acting country manager of Nakumatt, told The New Times that the supermarket is dealing with a local processor whose cheese has been certified.
Emmanuel Kageruka, the Managing Director of Gishwati Farms, said that his company stopped making cheese under the brand name Gishwati Farms Mozzarella Cheese for eight months because of lack of RSB Standardisation mark.
He said that he was processing between 800 litres and 1,000 litres of milk to make about 80 and 100 kilogrammes of cheese pieces.
Kageruka told The New Times that his cheese got the S-mark in October 2010, after meeting requirements set by the quality assurance body.
Kageruka said he had to move from Gishwati, Rubavu District, Western Province, in an area called Munkomane, where he was working from because that area lacks access to electricity and water.
He said that he decided to move to Northern Province's Rulindo District in Ngoma Sector, where such needed infrastructures are available.
He installed milk pasteurising machines, while previously, he was using a special pan with double wall to pasteurise the milk.
Though there is not enough milk in Rulindo compared to Gishwati, the district gave him four zones to collect milk, and he is receiving between 600 and 800 litres per day, which he is processing. To make a kilogramme of cheese, 10 litres of milk are required.
However, dairy products processors and RSB contend that there is an issue of entities which were prohibited because they do not meet minimum standards, but they are still working and selling cheese that lacks standardisation mark.
"These people are selling at low prices, about Rwf2,500, compared to Rwf3,500 for quality certified cheese. That is a challenge to us," he said.
RSSB says that 10 companies with 35 dairy products are currently undergoing certification process.