Firms urged to register for barcodes
The Director of Standards and Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Molebatsi Rabolinyane, has called on manufactures to obtain barcodes for their products to enter foreign markets. Mr Rabolinyane said since the ministry availed the barcodes in May this year, less than 10 traders had successfully applied for the facility. A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data relating to the object to which it is attached.
“Basically, a barcode identifies the distinct features of a product. Such things as its contents, nutritional value, where it was manufactured, the conditions under which it was manufactured and the name of the manufacturer are made available through the barcode,” Mr Rabolinyane told the Lesotho Times last week.
“The barcode can therefore, be used to track the product back to its original maker. And the purpose of the tracking is mainly to protect the consumer in case the product is faulty; the traceability helps shift any liability from the retailer back to the manufacturer.
“That is why retailers want products which have a barcode so that they could know how to contact the manufacturer in such cases. Products without one are rarely accepted into the market, which is why we are encouraging local companies to obtain the facility.”
Mr Rabolinyane also said manufactures stood to gain from barcodes.
“Firstly, it helps you identify your product in the market, and further helps retailers keep control of their stock. Again, it helps retailers keep record of additional statistics that would enable them to see the flow of their products.
“For manufacturers, they need to be aware that barcodes are restrictive to a certain variation of products. This means they need to be consistent because any slight variation in the make of the product calls for a different barcode. It means that two products with the same barcode have the exact composition.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Ministry of Small Business Cooperatives and Marketing, are jointly implementing an enhanced Integrated Framework project that started in 2013. The project seeks to equip farmers with skills aimed at commercialising agriculture. Through the project, the ministries recently bought inspection and packaging equipment as well as facilitated joint-training for staff and manufactures on the machinery’s usage.
“The project’s focus has been towards improving the standard and quality of products produced locally as well as making sure they comply with international standards. This was done with the view to capacitate our manufactures and farmers in commercial agriculture,” Mr Rabolinyane said.
“Many local water-bottling companies and agro-processing businesses have been asking for assistance to export their products so that pressure culminated in the purchase of inspection equipment which we are currently piloting.”
Mr Rabolinyane noted Lesotho’s previous reliance on South African standards which he however, said could not be verified because of Lesotho’s lack of machinery.
“Our formal market is South Africa and that means to export to that country, they impose their standards on our manufacturers who do not have much knowledge on what is expected of them. Many of our manufacturers still hit a brick-wall in their attempts to export to that side. The absence of this equipment also meant that we could not verify the quality of imported products. We just relied on what South Africa (SA) provided as proof.
“As the three ministries, we are in the process of adopting SA technical standards and regulations that govern products eligible for export because it would be impossible to use the equipment we have already acquired in the absence of standards to guide us.”