Firms urged to reg­is­ter for bar­codes

Lesotho Times - - Business -

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.”

Retha­bile Pitso

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