Exporters of horticultural products, especially hot pepper, are looking at foraying into other markets and abandon the UK, as interceptions of their products at entry points expose them to losses.
For close to two years now, no solution has been found to address what exporters call unreasonable and costly interceptions of their products by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
According to exporters that Rwanda Today talked to, the chilli consignments for instance that have been intercepted by DEFRA on suspicion of having viruses, have ended virus free after testing.
“The reports DEFRA sends us when we inquire about the intercepted products are based on suspicions, they just say they suspect our chilli to be having this or that virus or paste.” “We have done all we can, engaged at all levels possible but these interceptions continue to happen, many exporters have given up on chilli, we are now exploring other markets so we can do away with the UK,” said Robert Rukundo, an exporter and president of Rwanda exporters association.
Between July last year and March 021, exporters to the UK lost chilli worth over Rwf100million in airport interceptions by DEFRA, which ended up bankrupting some exporters who have since exited the market.
Information obtained by Rwanda Today indicated that in the first three months this year, Almond, one of the exporting companies, lost up to Rwf 37 Million, while Veggie Fresh lost up to Rwf 12 Million.
The exporters say most of the intercepted products were on grounds that they have a PVY virus, only to be declared virus-free two weeks later but when their products have already got spoiled. Mr Rukundo said that all their horticultural products go through testing procedures done by Rwanda Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) a body charged with inspecting the quality of exported products, and the body gives their chilli a green light to be exported, only to be red flagged by DEFRA.
He said RICA does garden visits and tests the products at different levels, using their test kits.
Even shortly before export RICA staff take samples from ten boxes and if they find there is no issue, they give a green light for export.