Traders and small-scale manufacturers have faced the toughest of times since the pandemic broke out last year, and it seems the real impact is just beginning to unfold.
At the moment, many manufactures, some of whom belong to the made in Rwanda banner are in a bind after running out of packaging materials after suppliers stocks dried.
Coronavirus pandemic-induced problems are not like the normal problems we are used to, they are global and have a compounding effect, because the virus is a universal phenomenon.
For instance, the scarcity of packaging materials was caused by the fact that producers in their source markets in India and China are at a standstill because of a resurgent Covid-19 in the Asian countries especially India which dampened the production process.
The same pandemic also caused major cargo shipment glitches, which impeded shipping of even few products that suppliers could get their hands on, yet even after all the trouble, some manufacturers would be eliminated by how expensive these materials were since they doubled price.
Bread makers like Carl Group which makes VITA bread who used a certain packaging material with capacity to preserve the quality of the bread and also give the product an attractive brand, have now resorted to a poor quality material they could find on the market, after their Indian supplier failed to get their usual material.
The company says the shift to the poor quality packaging material has led to a 20 percent loss in revenues so far.
Other small manufacturers like beauty products makers, beverage producers among others are between a rock and a hard place. However, the packaging material challenge is not exactly new, it even predates the pandemic, although its occurrence exacerbated the problem.
There is a need to invest in improving local production of raw materials to suppor "Made in Rwanda" products as it is the only sustainable way to support growth of small and medium companies. Without concrete measures to support local manufacturers, in particular those that are trying to produce basic items that are easily consumed locally, the government will continue to incur a huge import bill.
In recent years, the government has rolled out some incentives to support local manufacturers. But the ongoing interruption of global supply chains due to the pandemic means that more measures are needed to protect and support local manufacturers.
Closely related to this is the issue of single use plastics, which are a month away from being banned. The grace period given by the 2019 law banning use of these plastics due to their negative impact on the environment will elapse in September, but the market is far from ready for the transition.
Due to limited capacity the biggest segment of the businesses that use single-use plastics in packaging their beverage drinks, snacks, honey and others, have not found any alternatives. All these call for urgent measures to deal with the pending crisis.