Suppliers and producers must expand their capacity or risk missing out on opportunities in the hospitality industry.
While the industry has grown over the past few years, local suppliers have been playing catch up in terms of quantities, types and standards of items, like foods and other supplies demanded in the high end hospitality market.
“Demand is growing and it is likely to grow further. If they don’t expand their capacity, there will be a big problem,” said a manager at one of the hotels in Kigali.
“When we began, many were operating informally. Standards were very low. You would find a supplier delivering meat using a pickup, but some of them now have refrigerated trucks,” he noted.
The qualities have however been improving, he added. Just as fruits and vegetables supplies have risen.
“Local suppliers still don’t work professionally, they do it to get money not as a long term business relationship. That’s why for every item we always have at least three suppliers such that we don’t get stuck,” he said.
Keeping up with demand
A similar position was shared by a manager at Simba supermarket, who said that 80 per cent of the foods used in the restaurant is sourced locally. However, they find local suppliers unreliable some times.
Mugambira Jean Baptiste, managing director of KIME Ltd, one of the leading suppliers of meat products to hotels and restaurants, agrees that it has been a challenge keeping up with demand.
“It is a new business for us. We are just trying to learn and adapt, but it’s still hard.”
He noted that the other challenging dynamic about supplying high end amenities like hotels is the fact that some of them have specific product demands, which are not demanded in high quantities but not easy to obtain, noting that some of the products need an investment as high as Rwf 3 billion ($3.5 million) which is hard to get.
In its made in Rwanda campaign, a popular drive to encourage consumption of locally made products, the government continues to help local producers across the entire goods manufacturing and supply ecosystem.
However, major gaps still exist especially in product packaging which has been subpar and uncompetitive even for local consumers, where many still opt for imported goods.
The local producers are still earning little from the growing retail market which is made up of local supermarket franchises like Simba supermarket, Ndoli and regional supermarkets like Nakumatt.
About 80 per cent of the goods on the Simba supermarket shelves are imported, the rest especially fruits and beverages are bought locally.
In a season of no events, Radisson Blue alone spends between Rwf25 million ($29,000) and Rwf30 million ($35,000) on meat products, and between Rwf15 million ($17,833) to Rwf 18 million ($21,400) on fruits and vegetables.
“With the growing hospitality industry there will be a need for more variety and quantity. Sometime it can take some time to source certain items,” said Thomas Stene general manager, Park Inn by Radisson, Kigali.