The Uganda National of Bureau of Standards says 2705 Ugandan products have been certified to access regional and international markets.
“During the FY 2019/2020, UNBS undertook Product Certification and Management Systems Certification to improve the quality of locally manufactured products so that they are able to access regional and international markets,” UNBS Executive Director Dr. Ben Manyindo said as he released the standard watchdog’s Annual Performance Report for the FY 2019/2020.
According to the report, there was an increase from 1350 products certification permits in FY2018/19 to 2705 permits in FY2019/20.
The executive director said that all UNBS certified products were able to access the wider EAC market.
This is a second year into the implementation of the UNBS Distinctive Mark, 2018 regulation.
The new regulation made it mandatory for products covered by compulsory standards to be certified and issued with a distinctive mark before they are allowed on the market.
As a result, UNBS saw an exponential increase in the number of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) seeking certification.
“During the FY 2019/20 we registered 1168 MSMEs and visited 304 MSMEs for on-site technical assistance and gap analysis. 1068 MSMEs visited UNBS and were provided with technical advisory services (compared to 929 MSMEs in FY2018/19), to build their capacity to apply standards and produce products that conform to standards thus contributing to the government’s export promotion strategy,” the report says.
“The shortfall was due to; failure by a number of MSMEs to pay fees for both testing and auditing despite registration, failure by MSMEs to address gaps in conformity to standards identified during certification, low technology base among MSMEs, Shortage of staff to handle the increased number of applicants to assist MSMEs through the certification process and of course challenges imposed on the sector by Covid-19 pandemic.”
UNBS generated and remitted Shs38.2 billion in non-tax revenue to the Consolidated Fund in the FY 2019/2020, constituting 64% of the released budget during the year.
The total approved budget for FY 2019/20 was Shs68.9 billion of which Shs59.7bn was released by end of the Financial Year, according to the executive director.
UNBS’ core mandate is to develop, promote and enforce standards to ensure competitiveness of locally manufactured products and to protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment against substandard products.
Due to Covid-19, the standards agency saw companies certified to manufacture hand sanitisers grow from 2 in March to 209 companies (with 254 brands) as of June 30.
UNBS developed standards for facemasks and was able to certify over 40 companies to produce non-medical facemasks by June 2020.
In FY 2019/20, UNBS developed 505 new standards bringing the total number of standards to 3948.
“The standards developed support key sectors of the economy and act as a catalyst for economic growth. Of the new 505 standards, 110 are in the area of Food and Agricultural sector, 148 in the Chemicals and consumer products, 125 are for Engineering and 122 for Management and services,” reads the report.
The agency also completed the construction of the Food Safety Laboratories at UNBS Bweyogerere Headquarters and they are now fully operational.
UNBS laboratories are internationally accredited which means the test results are recognised globally.
For the period under review, UNBS tested over 1060 product samples mainly products used by government in the fight against covid-19.
To date, UNBS registered increase in efficiency in terms of turn-around time from 25 days in FY 2019 to 18 days in 2020.in line with our promise to customers of delivering laboratory test reports within 21 days upon submission of a product sample for testing.
According to the report, In FY 2019/20, market surveillance inspections increased 11%, with 7,345 market surveillance inspections conducted against 6,646 inspections conducted in FY 2018/19.
The Inspections conducted covered over 56% of the entire country, the report says.
Cosmetics and body care products topped UNBS list of non-complying products followed by beverages, building materials and food stuffs with most results registered in the central, western, eastern and northern regions respectively.
The Bureau also saw increased sale of substandard products through the mobile vans and distribution trucks accounting for 58% of the total number of inspections by UNBS during its market surveillance inspections for the period under review.
“About 8% of the market surveillance inspections were conducted in manufacturing facilities mainly bakeries, beverage factories, maize millers resulting in 173 seizure mainly sealing/seizure of premises due to poor hygiene and this led to the seizure of hundreds of tons of substandard foodstuffs,” the report says.
"These include, among others, 840 metric tons of maize flour which would have been distributed to 280,000 people almost 20% of the COVID-19 relief food beneficiaries."
According to Manyindo, the prevalence of the substandard goods on the market is still a challenge especially from the informal business, which calls for more efforts in consumer vigilance, market information sharing, partnership at local governments and consumer awareness.