Packaging hurting Kenya, says KEBS

October 28, 2008

, NAIROBI, October 28 – The country is making an estimated 65 percent trade losses in the European markets due to poor packaging practices by exporters and manufacturers.

Kenya Bureau of Standards Managing Director Kioko Mang’eli attributed the losses largely to poor packaging of produce which results in it either going bad or getting destroyed before getting to its final destination.

“We are losing a lot of it because of collapsible packaging; systems that have not been designed properly to hold for a number of days, wetness, internal packaging and so forth. So we need to really change and improve the packaging capacity and knowledge in the market (to) maintain the market and improve,” Mr Mange’li observed.

Mr Mang’eli told Capital Business that if this situation was corrected the industry could grow its export opportunities by at least 30 percent.

“These people sometimes even make 100 percent losses particularly if it was horticultural produce and if it was packaged wrongly it will obviously go bad,” the standards boss said.

He revealed that at least six percent of the cost of production in the country goes into packaging while observing that this was very high and needed to be reduced if the export business was to make economic sense. He suggested a three percent cost reduction for medium and small scale industries to reap from their investment.

“You see six percent of 100 Euros is a lot of money, therefore we really need to bring this down. If we keep loosing that amount due to poor packaging this translates to huge economic losses,” he added.

Mr Mang’eli observed that efficiency in packaging systems, proper laws, ethics and environmental concern are key fundamental issues in the business of packaging.

He said it’s with this in mind that KEBS had organised an on- going three day workshop to educate players in the industry. Mr Mang’eli said that once awareness has been created on the issue, the standards body would then enforce compliance.

“We needed to improve this sector but of course the people must be willing to be improved so we just have moved into it now by a soft carrot first ,and then will go into the market once they understand what we need done,” he said. 

At the same time Mr Mang’eli urged representatives of the proposed COMESA- EAC-SADC task force to harmonise standardisation and metrology.

He blamed the lack of co-operation among member parties for the absence of proper implementation of standards within the region, adding that this had led to the weakening of the region as players in the international markets and cautioning that unless this issue is resolved it will be difficult for the trading block to succeed.

While lauding the proposal to form an African economic community by the three trading blocks Mr Mang’eli pointed out that current trade within the African region ranges at a low of one percent.

“If we were to improve this to three percent, five percent or even ten percent we will all obviously benefit greatly,” he said.

Not refuting that challenges do lay ahead but expressed optimism that the tripartite trade block is the best way forward for the region.

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