Rwanda: Govt to Develop Quality Cheese for Export

15 December 2019

The National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) will from January next year embark on a study aimed at developing good quality Made in Rwanda cheese, Olivier Kamana, NIRDA's Head of Applied Research and Development Department has said.

He indicated that lack of quality sustainability threatens Rwanda's cheese exports, pointing out that "quality without safety doesn't make sense, and safety without quality doesn't make sense as well."

The study, he said, will consider various factors including cow feed, water, season, quality of milk, transport, processing machines, storage environment, as well as sensory evaluation.

Sensory evaluation seeks to rank various cheese based on their quality (taste).

He told Sunday Times that NIRDA requested Rwf320 million from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to be spent on this project that seeks to make Rwanda's cheese industry competitive.

Rwanda has been doing well in terms of cheese safety, but the challenge now is on cheese quality and making it constant, Kamana said.

"We hope that within three years, there will be about three types of cheese based on the producing region such as Gishwati and Gicumbi," he told the Sunday Times.

"After getting quality cheese through a comprehensive study, we will teach processors what they should do to make the same cheese and maintain its good quality," he said.

Lack of constant cheese quality is supposedly due to use of milk from different locations and different cows which have been fed differently, as well as ineffective milk handling and processing techniques.

Kamana said that they will establish a link between feeds and their impact on milk and cheese quality.

Rwanda exports cheese to countries like the Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, and Gabon but, Kamana said that the plan is to expand the market.

He said that some foreign consumers who bought cheese from Rwanda complained that its quality was not constant, which resulted in decline in its consumption, despite being cheaper than cheese brands from other countries.

"If you buy a cheese in a supermarket today, you will not find the same cheese the next day if you want to buy; the taste will not be the same," he said.

"We want to make the made in Rwanda cheese a perfect product which can compete with those in other countries such as France," he said.

He said that they were now in the process of establishing a partnership with Workforce Development Authority (WDA) to hold a kind of professional training on cheese making that can be offering a certificate to cheese makers.

Emmanuel Kageruka, Managing Director of Gishwati Farms Ltd, told Sunday Times that the quality of cheese is sometimes impaired by the fact that clients need cheese before it reaches maturity.

"After cheese is made, it takes three weeks to mature. But, sometimes clients want to get it only after five days," he said.

Meanwhile, he said that the feed that cows eat play a major role in the quality of the milk it produces, as well as that of the cheese.

"What a cow consumes determines the quality of milk it produces," he said.

"For instance, the banana trunks have acidity which can be tasted in the milk and the cheese. It affects the quality," he said.

Rwanda's overall dairy exports (including milk, cheese, and yoghurt) experienced a drop of 56 per cent in revenues - as 9.3 million kilogrammes were exported generating more than $9 million in 2018/2019 against 17.5 million kilogrammes exported, according to the 2018/2019 report by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).

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